Sydney Adams is no longer a resident of Alaska, but still her roots on the Kenai Peninsula continue to deepen every spring. This year, she received a message alerting her it happened to be the day before the massive community celebration she started five years ago.
Adams still receives pictures and phone calls every year documenting how much bigger the Spring Fling has grown since its beginnings. The event draws hundreds of community members, who pack the conference rooms at the Soldotna Sports Center. It only continues to increase, she said.
“I am proud of where is started and where it’s going,” Adams said. “I never thought it would be this big, or more than a one time thing.”
When Adams was in high school and worked at Hope Community Resources. She became close with a deaf client.
Adams recalled the woman, who had already graduated, telling her she had never been able to attend a prom. This reality struck her so hard Adams decided to recreate prom that would also include community members with disabilities, she said.
“I wanted to make it everything, and more than any prom I’d ever been to,” Adams said. With no funds available but a big green light from Hope, she went around to the local businesses in the Kenai Peninsula Borough asking for donations.
Soldotna High School gave decorations, and a local seamstress offered some of the girls free dresses and tailoring, said Adams. Despite the overwhelming support, as the event neared, they still could not afford a venue, Adams said.
The owner of Soldotna-based Ellis Automotive asked how much was needed and wrote her a check right on the spot, Adams said. The community pulled everything off, she said.
Nicole Egholm heads up the Spring Fling production. The community provides monetary support and the City of Soldotna City Council makes an annual donation. Such assistance is what makes it possible for everyone to get in free, because a lot of the attendees have limited income, Adams said.
Everything else is volunteer-driven. The DJ and the Photographer don’t charge for their services, and food is brought in potluck-style, Egholm said. A Hope employee, Shady DeMoss, offers help doing hair and make-up the day of, Egholm said.
Decorating usually takes most of the day, she said. Volunteers from the Spring Flings other sponsors’, including Frontier Community Services and Birchwood Adult Behavioral Health Center, and some local community member’s show up to help out, Egholm said.
“Everyone does their part,” Egholm said. “Somehow it always gets done.”
Egholm, now in her fourth year of working with the event, said seeing the community excited about socializing is always heartwarming, she said.
“People prepare for weeks in advance,” said Michelle Norman, a Hope employee. “They have to pick the perfect dress.” Everyone gets excited for it, she said.
“People have busy lives and as you get older it gets harder to find ways to meet new people,” she said.
“It’s just a blast to dress up,” said Frontier employee Nikki Marcano, “We have some rockers in there.”
Marcano said it is wonderful seeing the merging of people from many different walks of life. It’s also nice to see faces from other agencies, she said.
“They look forward to it from the time it’s over, until the next one,” Marcano said.
Attendee Drew Shassetz said he loves the opportunity for people with different disabilities to come together and treat each other as one for a night. That evening he decided to sport a spider-man tie he was given from his mother.
“It puts everyone else’s tie to shame,” Shassetz said.
Joe Romig asked his wife Samantha Romig to be his date. The couple attends the Fling for the chance to see some new faces.
While a fast-paced Top 40 hit shook the speakers, the couple enjoyed some personal time on the dance floor holding hands, gently rocking from side to side in graceful circles, which Romig said is the only way he likes to dance.
Kelly Sullivan can be reached at Kelly.Sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com