JONI AVERILL

The Queen’s Closet part of unique Deer Isle-Stonington prom tradition

Posted April 03, 2011, at 5:24 p.m.

You don’t always know where a column will lead, and I certainly didn’t expect to hear about a wonderful old community tradition that continues today when I called Cathy Boyce to discuss immediate needs of The Queen’s Closet.

Located in the old Stonington Elementary School at 43 School St., the nonprofit program of Healthy Island Project offers free clothing for special occasions.

Open from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, or by appointment weekends and evenings if you call 367-5061, more than 500 outfits have been distributed in four years.

With the 2011 prom season approaching, The Queen’s Closet needs any type of formal wear, from gowns and accessories to suits and tuxedos.

A drop-off bin is outside the shop or, if you want to make other arrangements, call Cathy at the number above.

The Queen’s Closet also appreciates financial donations, and checks payable to HIP can be mailed to Cathy at 216 Sand Beach Road, Stonington 04681.

However, prom gowns and tuxes for teenagers aren’t all The Queen’s Closet needs right now, Cathy told me.

It needs formal wear for the whole family,  “from babes-in-arms to great-grandparents” because the Deer Isle-Stonington High School Junior Prom, to be held April 30, in the DIS gym, is open to everyone, not just students.

Anyone can attend by paying $10 to help cover expenses.

“The prom here is unique,” Cathy said.

“Several people go to just watch the kids in their formal wear.

“I am now getting entire families coming to The Closet for clothes for the prom.”

The original idea behind The Closet was “to take a little bite” out of spring prom expenses, Cathy said, but that bite is larger than expected during these difficult economic times, especially if the whole family wants to go.

Plus, the prom occurs “just when the fishermen are getting out their gear for the season, and there are lots of other expenses.”

This open prom is “simply tradition. I think it dates, at least, to my father’s time,” Cathy said.

“I see people I know who have no people in the school system; who just watch.”

And everyone is welcome to come to The Closet to select a free outfit which will be on display when they take their place on the dance floor.

You see, not only do the boys and girls make formal appearances leading up to the presentation of the princes and princesses and the crowning of the prom king and queen, but also when the Grand March begins, well, that’s something else again.

“All the mothers march with their sons, and all the fathers march with their daughters,” Cathy said, “and it all ends with the Royal Waltz.”

Isn’t that just great?

What a wonderful community event and certainly unique in my book.

I don’t know about you, but the last thing we wanted at our high school prom was having our parents around.

We groaned if Mom or Dad volunteered to chaperone. I can’t imagine what we would have thought if the whole town showed up!

But not here. Because that is the way it is.

The idea and the name for The Queen’s Closet, by the way, came from one prom that had great meaning for two families.

Cathy is the mother of a Down syndrome daughter whose best friend also has Down syndrome.

When the young women graduated, the friend was crowned prom queen.

“As the parent of a special needs child,” Cathy said, “that meant a lot to me.

“I still take both girls to the prom, and they help with The Closet.”

The crowning of prom royalty is another wonderful tradition, with grade school youngsters bearing crowns placed on the heads of the new royalty by their predecessors, dressed in what might be extra-special outfits.

“We’re supported by not just the island, but the extended community,” Cathy said, telling me about a woman from our nation’s capital who summers on the island and had heard about The Queen’s Closet.

She told Cathy, “Nobody in D.C. ever wears a gown more than twice,” and the woman later brought Cathy some gowns that apparently had been worn at one of President Barack Obama’s inaugural balls.

Getting properly dressed for this ball, Cathy said, couldn’t be done “without everybody’s support.”

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.

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