For years now, the Tybee Prom has come to epitomize the island’s spirit with an adult-oriented celebration full of libations, dancing and costumes, all for a good cause.
Sisters Shirley Sessions and Sandy McCloud hosted the first Tybee Prom in 2003 as a benefit for Tybee Beautification. The prom went dormant for a few years, until the sisters revived it as a benefit for the Humane Society. After six consecutive years of hosting, they’ve decided to shift directions.
“It requires a lot of planning and dedication,” Sessions said. “We thought, we’re just going to take a break and this is going to be the last one that we coordinate and orchestrate. Several people have called and asked if they could take it over. It’s open to whoever.
"I think that probably, there’s a good chance, that the Humane Society will take it over. We would love that. Animal rescue is our passion. It would be great to see it continue.”
The last few years, the net proceeds from the event went to the Islands Feral Cat Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that focuses on local feral cat communities. They loan traps to capture wild or sick cats, give advice for care and help arrange spaying or neutering. The project will again be the recipient of net proceeds from this year's prom, set for 7 p.m. July 14 at the Tybee American Legion.
During their time at the helm, the sisters have seen the annual party grow into a full-on fancy prom, complete with a crowning of a king and queen, live music, food and drinks, all in the laid-back Tybee spirit. In honor of their final year, Sessions and McCloud have themed this year the “Swan Song.” Patrons are encouraged to wear black, white or silver, feathers, tiaras, black tie or "Tybee formal."
“Anything to do with swans or black and white,” Sessions said. “The decorations will be centered on swans and black and white and silver. We go all out to decorate the American Legion. When you enter, you sense that you’re at fancy prom.
“Historically, prom was for college students and high schoolers,” she continued. “We figured, for adults who never got to go their prom or hated it, they needed to relive that experience. It is an adult prom. Sorry, leave your kids at home and your pets.
“It’s a fun evening. People love to see each other dressed up and dance. We have music. The singing group, Girlfriends — my sister is one of the them — they’re fantastic. They’ve been performing for the prom every year. We have DJ Barri Marshall, who is fabulous. It’s very festive. We love the idea of telling people the importance of taking care of their pets.”
The king and queen will be chosen by raffle at about 10:30 p.m. A special crown was crafted for this year.
“This year’s crown for the queen is ridiculous,” Sessions said. “It’s 13 ½ inches high. I am not even sure how they’re going to keep it on. It’s heavy and it’s high. I’ve kind of devised another option if they can’t keep it on their head the right way.”
For Sessions, along with her passion for pet rescue, the prom has been a chance to provide a space and time for people to leave their cares behind.
“Next year, I look forward to just dancing and having fun and not being in charge of anything,” Sessions said with a laugh. “Over the years, I loved observing the crowd and seeing people truly leaving their cares at home. Leaving their problems behind and embracing each other. People come from everywhere to prom. Just being part of something that has given people such a good experience, while at the same time, raising money for a good cause.”