Much remains up in the air about the 2021 44th South High Marathon Dance (SHMD), but there is one certainty.
“One thing we know is there won’t be dancing. Covid precautions just don’t allow it. We are calling it an ‘event,’ not a ‘dance’,” art teacher Tom Myott tells The Chronicle.
Mr. Myott, math teacher Jody Sheldon and alumnus Dan Albert are SHMD’s long-time adult advisers.
This Friday and Saturday — March 5-6 — would ordinarily be the event’s weekend. It’s been pushed back to April 30-May 1 in hopes to give the coronavirus pandemic additional time to clear.
The adult and student committees are exploring three main options.
- Holding a parade or walkathon on the main streets of South Glens Falls.
- Taking over the whole school building and parking lot, moving students in and out of the event in smaller groups, potentially by grade level, maybe in four-hour shifts, following state mandates, testing protocols, and sanitizing thoroughly between groups.
- Possibly moving the Marathon to the Great Escape, where all the participants could be on-site at the same time but spread out at separate pavilions and other locations, connected at least through the Great Escape’s public address systems.
All three options have been initially vetted, Mr. Myott said. The committees were planning to check out the Great Escape option more fully yesterday, Wednesday.
They aim to make final decisions “soon,” he said, “but it’s hard to know what to do. We still have to consider so many things.”
Mr. Myott said they might find ways to combine the options — perhaps to celebrate the graduating seniors with a parade, while holding other events throughout the weekend at the school or off-site.
“We know for sure there will not be a sleepover,” he said. Students won’t stay overnight. Depending on where it’s held, there will likely be separate events over the two days, Friday and Saturday.
It will be closed to the public. Only the student participants and required adults will be allowed in-person — no alumni, community members or other students.
“We definitely want alumni involved,” Mr. Myott said. They’ve been a major component, raising substantial money and turning the dance into a de facto homecoming.
“It’s all still very fluid,” he said. “We know things might change. We have to go through the school, the Superintendent and Principal, the school attorney, follow CDC and local authorities.”
The student-selected recipients — many with compromised health — are unlikely to attend in-person. Their usual arrival in the gym on Saturday night, with many of them choosing to address the students, provides the emotional peak before the fund-raising total is announced.
Mr. Myott said they may do something “maybe like a Jerry Lewis telethon,” a Muscular Dystrophy benefit televised with live entertainment and interview and profile segments.
Auctions and raffles will move online, and Mr. Myott said they’re still mulling what else they can do via the Internet.
Students will register electronically in “pods,” small groups of 10 to 12, who will be scheduled together for ease of Covid protocols and in case tracking is required. Sign ups are to begin later this month.
Students have been encouraged to raise funds online, rather than door-to-door or in-person. At the event website — www.SHMD.org — people may donate to individual “dancers” or the general Marathon fund. The website also will list all sanctioned business and community fund-raising events.
Cash will be minimized. Mr. Myott suggests the preference for online payments will likely continue beyond Covid.
The 30-member SHMD advisory board is offering perspectives on safety and security, student health, sound and DJ and how or whether to do live broadcasts.
This is also the event’s first full year as a 501c3 non-profit, Mr. Myott notes.
Far fewer requests for SHMD assistance
The students who participate in the annual South High Marathon Dance select the recipients who they will help.
Tom Myott, one of the adult advisers, told The Chronicle that said requests were “surprisingly lower” than in other years. He said that typically more than 200 individuals and from 80 to 100 organizations request funding.
This year, total, they had 70 requests. The deadline for requests was January.
The student committee will begin this week to consider the requests. They convene via Google Meets, as they’ve done all year.
“It is always a heartfelt and difficult process,” Mr. Myott said. “We are trying to keep as much as possible the same as in other years.”
He said they don’t expect to raise nearly the $800,000-plus of recent years, yet another unknown in this year of unknowns. — Cathy DeDe
Marathon Dance raised $801,281 in 2020; led the region
Last year’s 43rd annual South High Marathon Dance, held in March just before the Covid shutdowns, raised $801,281 to aid 37 recipients.
It was the region’s largest 2020 fund-raiser, according to the Albany Business Review, as cited in last week’s Chronicle.
But art teacher Tom Myott, one of the dance’s three long-time adult advisors, emphasizes, “We don’t talk about breaking totals, not ever. Our mantra, our philosophy is, whatever we make is what we can give.”
What Mr. Myott misses is the mood in the school leading up to the Dance.
“Normally,” he said, “this week would have been spirit week, leading up to the dance that would have been this coming weekend. There would have been music in the halls, the fever building. It’s a little bizarre to be so quiet.”
“We try to look at things from the most positive aspect,” Mr. Myott said. “It’s a catalyst for education. We will have the best plans in place because that is how we always do it.” —C. DeDe
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