NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — “A Starry Night” was the theme of the West Essex High School (WEHS) fifth annual intergenerational prom on Thursday, and “starry” it was with the star balloons, star table decorations, star performance by the high school jazz band and the stars of the night—the senior citizens and high school students who ate, danced and spent time together.
The WEHS gym was alive with music, food and entertainment for the nearly 120 people at the event, which included dinner, music, dancing, photo booth and a caricaturist.
The intergenerational prom is a school-initiated outreach event focusing on integrating the senior community with the school community. WEHS student volunteers helped in all aspects of the night, greeting guests and making them feel welcome at their school.
Students and guests ate together, talked and shared stories, danced and enjoyed the entertainment, including a jazz band performance under the direction of Anthony Fabrizo.
One highlight of the night was the choosing of prom king and queen, which included WEHS senior Lexi Faust as prom queen and her grandfather, Jack Rizzuto, as prom king. The teachers who chose the king and queen said that they were impressed with the affection Faust showed to her grandparents, and Andrea Trombino, administrative assistant, said she was delighted to see Faust dancing with her grandfather.
Another highlight was the gifts presented to two couples at the event who had gone to their own high school proms together. The proud recipients were Fairfield’s John and Eileen Campolattaro and Caldwell’s Tony and Carole Turi. They received gift bags that included Spirit Wear and WEHS coffee mugs.
The Campolattaros started dating on Feb. 19, 1954, when they were only 16 years old and attending Barringer High School in Newark. The could got married in 1961 and had four children.
“It feels like only yesterday,” the 53-year Fairfield residents said.
The Turis attended their senior prom together at the Westmont Country Club; Carole went to Bloomfield High School, and Tony went to Passaic Valley High School. They got married, had three children, and currently have 11 grandchildren. Their granddaughter, Isabel Turi, who went to Columbia High School in Maplewood, also had her prom at the Westmont Country Club.
The Turis had such a good time at the prom last year that they brought their friend, Sandra Kovats of Riverdale, to join them.
“This is beautiful,” said Kovats. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Doris Hochstein also was at the prom last year and said she had such a good time that she was looking forward to coming back this year.
“The food was excellent,” she said.
Also in attendance were Fairfield Police Chief Anthony Manna and North Caldwell Police Chief Mark Deuer, who served food at the event, and members of the West Essex Board of Education.
“The night was wonderful, and it gave residents an opportunity to enjoy the facilities,” said board member Anthony Rubinich. “Without their support, this could not be possible.”
“This wonderful event is a way of giving back to the community, and I like watching everyone enjoying themselves,” said board member Cindy Egan.
“This is a great event that brings adult seniors and high school students together to socialize and have fun together,” said board member Ann Fahey.
WEHS principal Caesar Diliberto was also present, along councilmen and councilwomen from surrounding areas.
Guests included members of the Caldwell’s Marion Manor, Sunrise at West Essex, Woodcrest of Fairfield and Fairfield’s Golden Agers. Guests also included students’ grandparents and friends.
Barbara Dallegro, who had her caricature drawn, said that she had a great time and that “everything was so nice.”
“This is outstanding,” said Evelyn O’Reilly, a Fairfield Golden Ager. “This is the second year that I came. You can’t beat it. Kids have done an outstanding job getting this all together.”
Another Golden Ager, Josephine Dapuzzo, said, “It is a lot of fun and brings back a lot of memories.”
Ida Young of Woodcrest agreed, stating that the event was “lovely,” and that she was “having such a great time.”
Students Catherine Marino, Gabriella Benevenga and Lea Bachenheimer, members of the jazz band, said that they enjoyed playing for the senior citizens. Nicole Sleais also thought that the event was fun.
Many local businesses helped with the event, including Phil Maestoso, owner of Hollywood Pizzeria and Restaurant, who catered dinner; Beautiful Creations, which donated balloons and the archway; Pomptonian Food Service, which donated the dessert and coffee; Legacy Studio, which prints the WEHS yearbook and provided the photo booth for the event; caricaturist Michael Arnold of Speedydoodle Studios; Tim Hughes, the DJ and a former WEHS student; and Stop and Shop.