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GEEK PROM IN THE NEWS
Geek Prom? Nerds rule, and unhip is way cool

By Larry Oakes
April 21, 2006 | Star Tribune

At the Geek Prom on Saturday night in St. Paul, inflatable dates will get in free. The lights over the Science Museum of Minnesota's temporary dance floor will sparkle in myriad pairs of horn-rim glasses with lenses thick as Coke bottles.

If hearing, "Hey, four-eyes!" still gives you a twinge of dread, if you've ever worn floodwater pants with red socks, if you lettered only in Rocket Club or collected molds and fungi, this is your dance -- your chance to feel normal. Even cool.

It's time to get your geek on.

"People want to dance but don't want to look stupid," said Paul Lundgren, a freelance writer who threw the first Geek Prom in Duluth in 2002. "Once you make looking stupid the whole point, that flips the whole thing around."

After four successive annual incarnations in Duluth, the only prom catering to adult [21 and older] nerds, nimrods, dorks, dweebs and other "misfits," has gone metro and arrived at its geekiest venue yet: a museum with science experiments and dinosaur bones.

"We celebrate the geekiness in all of us, and that certainly is what the Geek Prom does, too," said Gail Vold Greco, the museum's director of public relations. "We needed to call our people home."

She also acknowledged a desire on the museum's part to broaden its appeal with young, single adults, a demographic that doesn't flock there as readily as children, their parents, grandparents.

"We are a great date-destination," Vold Greco argued. "It's a wonderful place to spend time, have great conversations and get to know someone."

KNOT OF NAKED NERDS

The prom's website, www.geekprom.com, promises "awkward romance, cheesy music," people dressed in band uniforms and other extreme-geek outfits, seminars on the science behind sex and the chemistry of cocktails, and, to heighten the magic, the dissection of a cow's eye.

"For those who were too geeky to attend their high-school prom, it's a chance to finally be accepted," the website states. "For those who were too cool to properly enjoy their high school prom, it's an opportunity to finally let that inner-geek out."

Some let it out further than others. Each of the first four proms had what has come to be known as the "Geek Streak" -- a pasty knot of naked nerds flashing across the dance floor.

"I was really surprised the first year," said Lundgren, who traces the idea for the prom to a moment when he was listening to Van Morrison in his car and mused, "Wouldn't it be great if somebody got Van Morrison to play at their prom? "

Soon he was suggesting throwing a prom for adults who had had bad prom experiences, or no prom experiences, in high school.

Asked for his definition of geek, Lundgren says he doesn't have a hard-and-fast one: "I usually go with the old saying about pornography: 'I know it when I see it.' "

One kind, he said, is "anyone who is obsessed with something useless, esoteric or outside of popular culture."

While Lundgren said that's not him, he adds: "I love that there are people in the world that, for example, know absolutely every detail about the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly and can't shut up about it."

GEEKY TRAITS ABOUND

The first king, Ryan Amundson in 2002, was allergic to his crown.

Last year's queen, Crystal Pelky, a Duluth store manager, collects New Kids on the Block comic books and earned chemistry and physics degrees "just for fun," according to the geek prom website, which added: "Since the third-grade, all of her romances have been imaginary. She has been with her current boyfriend, musician Dave Matthews, for eight years."

Some of the more interesting geeks bring their collections, Lundgren said: "One year a guy brought in a miniature volcano and blew it up. That guy was awesome."

The Duluth proms attracted up to 300 people and doubling that number for the St. Paul prom wouldn't be out of the question, Lundgren said, adding that the Science Museum negotiated the option of having the prom there again next year.

Does he want to take the idea national?

"The way I see it, it is national," he answered. "It's global. ... If some lady in New Guinea wants to be Geek Queen, she'll have to come to Minnesota."