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Neil Devor
Aaron Camiling, 17, and Maggie Deever, 16, of the Canoga Park California Stake on the top deck during a harbor cruise for the LDS prom in Southern California. Behind them is the Long Beach Harbor and the Queen Mary.

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Velvet ropes and bright lights lined the red carpet that was rolled out for 870 students from 16 stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Friday, May 3, all celebrating the 7th annual LDS prom at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif.

Mock-paparazzi photographers snapped welcoming shots of each couple or solo attendee who walked the red carpet. Large, multi-screen displays of those photos flashed on the interior walls of the venue throughout the entire evening as the 16- to 18-year-old attendees danced to current hits.

The shark tank, sea lions, otters and all the other ocean exhibits were open for self-guided tours throughout the night. The prom included portable photo booths, a crazy costume corner and sketch artists, with poses in front of the "beachfront" backdrops and island paradise getaways to remember their time together in front of the sea anemones.

A full taco bar and drink stations were set up around the Aquarium and were orchestrated to move teenagers in a continuous flow of interest and activities.

The gigantic replica of a blue whale and her baby, which hung from the ceiling by high-tension cables, were the natural dance spot for all who braved the mass of people.

Adult chaperones, including members of stake presidencies and young men and young women leaders, mingled throughout the night, blending in while keeping a non-gawking eye on the students. They also helped direct youths to the karaoke theater where videos of extreme-sport outtakes silently projected on a large screen while the teens braved their dignity with teleprompter lyrics that hopefully matched the action on the screen.

In between, dinner, dancing and catching their breath youth took the Long Beach Harbor tour, which departed dock's gangway at 60-minute intervals just outside of the aquarium. Multiple groups simultaneously flooded the privately booked ferry boat that took them around the harbor for a 45-minute tour, passing such sights as the Queen Mary and a moth-balled war submarine that still ports in the harbor.

When the music finally ended, high spirits carried the youths outside and onto the many 50-seater “coaches" waiting at curbside to shuttle them back to their individual stakes buildings.

The La Crescenta California Stake, including President and Sister J.P. Morgan, helped start and maintain this Southern Californian tradition.

Matthew Ball is the director of public affairs for the North America West area.