April 10, 2007 | Duluth
Geek Prom is home.
This Saturday, it will be back
at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth after a two-year exile
to St. Paul’s Science Museum. But its homecoming is
true in another way, too. Geek Prom is the place where every
geek and nerd, every oddball and gamer, every obsessive lover
of an arcane comic-book hero, can be safe, happy and at home.
“We’re hoping that
people will be as excited that we’re back as we are,”
says Jonathan Lee, who serves as the prom’s co-host
and also works on the official prom committee. “It’ll
either be the prodigal son returning, or it’ll be, you
didn’t write, you didn’t call ... so we gave your
bedroom away. It’ll go one way or the other.”
The Geek Prom idea came to
Paul Lundgren almost 10 years ago, although the first dance
took place in 2002.
“It was the idea that
‘being cool’ saps the joy and energy out of any
event,” he said. “Once the idea of Geek Prom sprang
forth, it was too delicious to pass up.”
And why was Lundgren the anointed
founder? He doesn’t look markedly geeky. Some might
even accuse him of a certain degree of cool.
just something about me, I fit in the center of all the different
types of geek. I’m the shepherd in the field of geeks.”
The first prom was a Paul Lundgren/Scott
Lunt collaboration. The Homegrown Music Festival still was
developing, and they thought Geek Prom would be a good run-up
to it. But the prom took on a life of its own.
“After it ran on the
AP [Associated Press] wire, we spent quite a few days talking
to every morning DJ in the country about it,” Lundgren
Why did Lundgren take it out
of town? “We got an offer from the Science Museum that
covered my butt,” he said.
The final year of the St. Paul
stand was marked by police using pepper spray and arresting
streakers. Lundgren says that didn’t prompt the return
to Duluth. It’s just easier for him to juggle a break-even
event locally while sticking to his day job.
Lundgren likes it when people
bring their own fun to the prom, such as the couple who brought
an exploding volcano experiment. Other beloved events are
the coronation of the king and queen, the Gonzo Gong Show
and the Spazz Dance competition.
The Gonzo Gong Show (hosted
by Jim Richardson with his assistant Jill Holmen) is a talent
competition. Lundgren advises participants to come prepared
“My favorite is an old
man who squatted on a barstool and became a vulture,”
How is royalty chosen? As people
enter Geek Prom they are funneled by past royalty. These illustriati
take notes and present the Secretary of State with their top
three choices. The Secretary tallies these picks.
Just going in the door puts
you in the running, says Lundgren, “but going over and
talking to the judges really helps. Some people bring their
Easy lies the head that wears
this plastic crown. Neither the king nor queen does much during
his or her reign. They get a great prize: a ride in a Cirrus
SR22 plus a bag of swag.
New this year
Geek Prom lost one of its heroes
this year, Gary Gygax, the inventor of “Dungeons and
Dragons.” Promgoers will pay tribute.
“We will be assembling
a Gary Gygax altar. Everyone who comes will receive a multisided
die. Everyone will have an opportunity to roll a six-sided
die six times: for strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution,
dexterity, charisma. Lumpy G is our gaming-geek counselor
on these matters,” Lundgren said.
Geek Beer, a highly caffeinated
brand of root beer, will be handed out free. “That product
just launched a few days ago, and they were really excited
about getting a lot of geeks hooked on it,” Lundgren
Jonathan Lee and Crystal Pelkey
have attended every Geek Prom and serve on the prom committee,
keeping the spirit alive from year to year. Lee and KUMD-FM
103.3 DJ Christine Dean are the event’s co-hosts.
Lee is a suited geek, a particular
variety that is well “suited” to administration.
He brings his megaphone. “Typically the first thing
I hear is ‘I can’t hear a word you’re saying’
and I explain that I’m mumbling.”
Lee likes the special guests.
“George Kessler spoke on weather. Well, he’s got
no choice. I tried to get him to talk about other things.
But he does have an earnest passion for meteorology as a science.
And he plays D& D.”
Pelkey advances her geek credentials
with enthusiasm. Just what makes her nerdy?
“Oh so, so many things,”
she asserts. “I’m a closeted science nerd. I have
degrees in chemistry and physics just for fun. I have imaginary
relationships with rock stars. Dave Matthews and I have been
dating for 10 years. I have a New Kids on the Block comic
book collection . . . and I just saw on TV, they’re
getting back together!”
Pelkey also is a craft nerd,
doing puff painting and patches on her jeans. She loves the
prom because “people can let their inner personality