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Big Night Out for 28 Friends

Fairfax High School Prom gives at least 28 students a night to remember.

One black Hummer limousine carried close to $20,000 worth of dresses, tuxedos, accessories, jewelry, tickets, hair styles and make-up to the Fairfax High School junior-senior prom, Friday, June 9, but the graduating seniors in the limousine said prom was worth so much more to them than all the hype and expenses.

"Everyone just wants to be with their friends," said Meghan Lusk. "Our group is probably the biggest group I know of."

Lusk and 27 of her closest friends decided to attend prom together. She said the decision for a large group was obvious, because many of the teens have been friends since elementary and middle school. When prom planning began, Tiffani Le said they "couldn’t leave anyone out," which is how they ended up with 28 people, or 14 couples.

"We’re all long-term friends with our dates," said Cara Watters.

The prom started at 9 p.m., at the Fairview Park Marriott, 3111 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, but most of the girls began primping before noon. The hair salons at the Fair Oaks Mall were laden with high school girls getting updos. When Le arrived at the Christie Adams Salon for her 11:30 a.m. appointment, she indecisively flipped the pages of a hairstyle book looking for the perfect hair style. She finally entrusted the stylist, Julia Carranza, to do whatever she thought would look best, as long as her hair would end up half up, half down.

"I can’t decide on anything," said Le.

In the chair next to her was Ashley Dowd, who was also getting a half up, half down style. Watters stood behind them waiting for her appointment as the three girls talked about the big night ahead.

"I’m so excited," said Le.

"We’ve been talking about this for a month," said Dowd.

The next stop was Tyson’s Corner. Dowd and Le met a few others from their group, including Arianna Rouhani and Meghan Lusk, to get their make-up done at the Bloomingdales MAC counter. They showed up for 3:30 p.m. appointments, but the counter was swamped with anxious teenagers waiting their turn for the two make-up artists on duty, thus pushing appointment schedules way back. Both W. T. Woodson High School and Robinson Secondary School had their proms on the same evening, and the hair and make-up places in the Tyson’s Corner mall showed it. Teen girls with updos swarmed the mall, many of whom could be seen waiting their turn at various make-up counters in Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Hecht’s. The Bloomingdales MAC counter ended up sending Le and Lusk to the Hecht’s counter, because they had overbooked and didn’t have enough staff. The pre-prom party for the group of 28 was at Keven Havenner’s house at 5:30 p.m., and Lusk didn’t sit down for make-up until 4:30. It was closer to 5 p.m. by the time Le sat down, and she said she immediately knew she wouldn’t make it in time for pictures at Havenner’s house.

Once the girls trucked through the rush hour traffic from Tyson’s to Fairfax, they made it to the finish line: Havenner’s house. From his house forward, the limousine would be carting them around town. Havenner’s street was lined with cars for about a quarter of a mile. Parents for the 28 dolled up teens were waiting to take pictures of their children.

"This is a good group of kids," said Chris Beaulieu, Ashley Beaulieu’s mother. "We’ve [the parents] have all coached sports and been on PTA together. Everyone has known each other for years."

Le was still either still in the make-up chair or stuck in traffic, so the other 13 girls lined up with their dates for pictures. Their beautiful, and expensive, dresses dazzled in the sunlight, and each and every girl could not stop smiling.

THE 2006 MAGIC PROM dress price was around $380, with several of the girls casually saying they had spent about that on their dresses.

"About $400 and under was reasonable," said Lusk.

"My dad just didn’t want to hear me complain about not finding a dress, because he knows how picky I am," said Le.

"I don’t spend like that all the time, so [Mom] was okay with it," said Dowd.

The $400 dresses were hardly the only expense, though they may have been the costliest. Each of the 28 teens had to chip in $87 per person for the limousine. They went to dinner at Da Domenico before the prom, with an average dinner there running about $20, not including appetizers, drinks or dessert. Corsages and boutonnieres were about $40 per couple, not to mention the $120 hairstyles and $50 make-up jobs that most girls got. And the prom tickets were $60 a head. Multiply all of that by 28, and the Hummer’s value just increased by about $20,000. Lusk and Le said they had worked it out with their dates to where the guys would pick up the dinner tab and the cost of the prom tickets, since the girls had so many other expenses between their dresses, hair and make-up. They said this was how most of the couples handled it.

The Hummer limousine arrived, and to the group’s surprise, a stretch Lincoln came along with it. The party bus they had originally ordered had engine trouble about a week earlier, so the limousine company said the Hummer would replace it and that there would be plenty of room. There wasn’t, and many of the girls weren’t happy.

"We were supposed to have a party bus," said Arianna Rouhani. "They messed up once, now they messed up twice."

"I’m a little pissed," said Lauren Kennedy. "We were supposed to get a party bus."

The girls said they were obviously happy to be riding in such style, but their frustration was with the limousine company’s inability to provide transportation big enough for all 28 of them. They fit about 20 in the Hummer, and the rest had to ride separately in the Lincoln. The party bus they originally reserved would have seated all of them comfortably, plus it had room for dancing.

By the time they were sitting down for dinner though, the limousine problems didn’t seem to matter anymore. Everyone was smiling and talking to each other at their private table, big enough for all 28 of them, at Da Domenico, 1992 Chain Bridge Road, McLean. They ate an Italian dinner before heading to the prom around 10 p.m.

The fun had already begun when the group arrived. Hundreds were already on the dance floor or sitting at the ballroom tables. Finger food, soft drinks and virgin daiquiris were being served, and two fountains of milk chocolate were available for dipping fruit and pound cake. The high school sold more than 600 prom tickets, and 65 chaperones were there, working in three shifts, to make sure the night ran smoothly.

For the group of 28, the night was just about flawless, with the exception of the limousine situation.

"It’s great to have all my best friends in the same place," said David Wolf. "It’s a lot of fun, but it’s kind of sad because it’s [high school] almost over."