Rhonda Dukart, a committee member, said Saturday, Oct. 24, will be the last time the organizers will be coming together to help the girls find their dream dress at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson with all the proceeds benefiting the Domestic Violence & Rape Crisis Center. In previous years, the most expensive dresses would be $40. But with this being the final year, all the dresses will be $10 from 10 a.m. to noon and from noon to 1:30 p.m. all dresses will be free.
“It makes me sad in a lot of ways,” Dukart said. “but everyone that has been on this committee for a long time just felt like it was time, it just feels like it has run its course.”
As in years prior, the project will be held at the Ramada Grand Dakota Hotel, but will have some different features because of COVID. The committee members will be allowing girls to look at the dresses, but will not be able to try on the dresses in dressing rooms due to the pandemic.
“Part of the fun of this project is girls being able to go into the dressing room and trying new dresses and we can’t do that this year because of COVID,” Dukart said. “If it’s a nice day outside we may have everything outdoors, but you never know what the weather is going to be like at the end of October.”
In its prime, young women and their parents filled the room with teenagers and parents trying to find the right dress for the special night, especially for the upcoming prom in the spring. The project featured hundreds of dresses for the girls to choose from brand new never worn dresses that would be originally $400 in actual price that was donated by Special Occasions in Dickinson and other stores that donated some dresses. To some being just slightly worn, or only worn once or twice before. Dukart mentioned some girls would buy the dress and return it the next year so another teenager would wear it. The project was the talk of the town.
However, because of the changing of times and online shopping becoming increasingly popular, the project began to steadily decline. Dukart said despite the advertisement including broadcasting on the radio, television and using social media platforms, the numbers are nowhere near where they used to be, with only a small portion of dresses now being sold. With low numbers and the changing of times, the committee decided this would be the companies final dance.
“We tossed it around last year, there were so many fewer dresses sold than in previous years,” she said. “Several on the committee felt it was time to end the project (last year) but decided to do it again.”
Dukart said the committee saw a slight increase in participants which inspired for the committee to do it again in 2020 with the plan being to bring the project to a local high school so the young women would feel more obliged to see the project. For a time, it seemed as if everything was going as planned. Until COVID hit.
“Because of COVID, neither (Dickinson High or Dickinson Trinity) or Dickinson State are allowing outsiders to come in with outside activities,” Dukart said. “And after so many years it just kind of hits a point to where maybe it just doesn’t make sense any more.”
Along with the committee no longer partaking with the event, so ends the annual profit the Domestic Violence & Rape Crisis Clinic received. In years past, the committee would raise approximately $4-5,000 in total based on the amount of dresses sold and the raffle that would take place during the day of the event.
“Our goal was to be get about $4-5,000,” Dukart said. “That buys a lot of diapers, school supplies, after school snacks and some of the really regular household items that people need. That’s been the main goal, raise enough to meet their daily needs items like socks and underwear, coats, shoes and things like that.”
Dukart recalled a time in which she helped a mother who was a victim and her two daughters get the dresses they dreamed of and told their mother the dresses were only $10 each instead of $40. The mother paid $80 for the two brand new dresses, but thanked the committee for allowing her daughters the chances to be princesses.
“I went into the bathroom and I cried,” Dukart said. “Those are the kinds of stories that we experienced every year that we did this project. There was always somebody that would leave glowing because they found a beautiful dress and they were able to afford it.”
Dukart said she will truly miss the beautiful moments the Prom & Party Dress Sale brought to the entire Southwestern community of North Dakota.
“I take away the looks on the girl’s faces that bought beautiful dresses and there were many that I wish I could explain how happy they got,” she said. ” And we had so many ladies and their husbands, and their sons and high school kids that were doing community service that genuinely cared about the goals of the project. It never mattered what the weather was or how many dresses there were … it’s been a beautiful project and that’s the way it goes.”
For more information on the final Prom & Party Dress Sale, contact Rhonda Dukart by email at [email protected] or at 701-260-1870.