May 25, 2013

The Prom: Cape teens are treated like royalty -- for a day

By Leslie Bridgers
Staff Writer

and Gillian Graham
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Mackenzie Leighton, a junior at Cape Elizabeth High School, and her date, Connor Maguire, a senior, attend their prom May 18 at The Portland Club in Portland.

Jill Brady / Staff Photographer

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Connor Maguire, a senior at Cape Elizabeth High School, poses for a photo May 18. “I can’t think of another thing I’d want to spend my money on,” he said of the prom experience.

Jill Brady / Staff Photographer

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"I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, I love this,' " she said.

It was also only $80, which would mean less of her saved-up babysitting money to spend.

Proms have become expensive, for some. The average American teen now spends $1,139 on the prom, up 5 percent since last year, according to a survey by VISA and research group Gfk.

Most of Mackenzie's prom purchases were practical. She spent $10 on strappy wedges from DSW and $3 on a gold headband from Forever 21. After all, she already had the only accessory she needed.

"I'm going with Connor," she said. "I know I'll have a good time."


As Mackenzie spent hours getting her hair and nails done, Connor's pace was a little slower, a bit more low-key. He got a quick haircut, then mowed the lawn. To pass the time in the afternoon, he sat down to watch the end of the documentary "Undefeated," about a Memphis, Tenn., high school football team. One of the featured players was sidelined by a knee injury and missed most of the season -- the same experience Connor had during his own final football season.

That injury hampered Connor's ability to shovel the neighbors' driveways to earn money, leaving him scrambling to do odd jobs around the neighborhood to come up with the cash he needed for prom.

Connor shopped around for the best deal on his tux, landing a rental for $113 at Tuxedos on Broadway in South Portland. Then there were the prom tickets at $45 each, a corsage for $27 and another $60 or so for his share of the limo rental.

"I can't think of another thing I'd want to spend my money on," he said.

Finally, 20 minutes before he was scheduled to leave to meet Mackenzie, Connor slipped into his black tux. His father helped him get his cuff links and white bow tie just right, as his mom brushed cat hair from his pants and jacket. After a few minutes of being fussed over, Connor and his family headed outside for a few photos -- in the backyard, near a tree in the front yard. A neighbor watering his lawn waved to the family as they smiled for the camera.


As soon as Mackenzie spotted Connor in the crowd at their friend's Pine Point beach house, she ran and wrapped her arms around him.

Together, they mingled among the dozen couples, their parents and siblings, nibbling on nachos and pasta dishes in a potluck-style feast.

The bare-armed girls bore the chilly breeze as they posed for photos outside in countless combinations of couples and groups, then took their shoes off and walked down to the water for a final photo shoot before the limos arrived.

Meanwhile, chaperones were arriving at The Portland Club, where red and black drapes hung at the entrance to the ballroom, tables were decorated with playing cards and poker chips, and limos dropped off the first guests. Girls greeted one other inside with shrieks and hugs, and many kicked off their shoes.

Principal Jeff Shedd waited outside, greeting nearly every student by name as they arrived. It was the 16th time he chaperoned the prom, though he never went to his own. The music and dresses may be different, but some things never change, he said.

"There are a lot of traditions that are still alive," he said. "The king and the queen of the prom, the prince and princess."

After a quick limo tour of the sun setting over the Eastern Promenade, Mackenzie and Connor arrived at the prom a fashionable 15 minutes late. They filed into the line that led to their assistant principal, who held a breathalyzer to test for alcohol -- now a common practice at proms.

Mackenzie and Connor got their picture taken together in front of a giant ace of spades, then walked through the drapes, each other's arm on each other's back, and entered the mass of classmates for the main event.

They danced most of the night, to some songs they knew and some songs they didn't.

Connor recognized the last song of the night from the finale of the television show "Scrubs." Mackenzie had never heard it before. It was "Book of Love," Peter Gabriel's 1984 cover of the song by The Magnetic Fields. The song came out a decade before Connor and Mackenzie were born.

They danced anyway, before heading back to Pine Point to eat the leftovers from the potluck, make s'mores and play guitar by a fire pit. The other kids stayed over, but Connor and Mackenzie's parents wanted them home that night.

The curfew was "a bummer," Mackenzie said, "but I understand where they're coming from."

When Connor dropped Mackenzie off, her mother was waiting on the couch, as promised.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:


Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Mackenzie Leighton gets her nails done at Today’s Nails in South Portland on May 18 in preparation for the prom. “I’m going with Connor,” she said. “I know I’ll have a good time.”

Jill Brady / Staff Photographer

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Mackenzie Leighton has her hair done by Aili Harmon at Belissimo in South Portland. It was her first up-do.

Jill Brady / Staff Photographer

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Mackenzie Leighton straightens Connor Maguire's bow tie.

Jill Brady / Staff Photographer

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Mackenzie Leighton, a junior at Cape Elizabeth High School, and Connor Maguire, a senior, pose on the beach as they are photographed before the prom by their mothers, Gwyneth Maguire, left, and Susan Leighton, right, May 18. After the dance, the couples returned to a Pine Point cottage to eat the leftovers from the potluck, make s’mores and play guitar by a fire pit.

Jill Brady / Staff Photographer

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Connor Maguire gets help with the final touches from his mother, Gwyneth, and father, Richard, at their home as he gets ready to meet his date.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer


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