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Four bands and four years later, students finally get their overdue prom night

When the idea of prom comes to mind, most think about high schoolers dancing in a gymnasium anticipating the next chapter of their lives.

While most American high school teens look forward to prom, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2021 took that away for a large portion of students.

Sara Canton was one of those students who never experienced her senior high school prom. Now as a senior at the University of Florida, she decided to do something about it.

An events intern at Swamp Head Brewery, Canton played a large role in creating the idea of a prom for college students centered around live music. She helped start Red Letter Day prom (named after a band performing at the event), or RLD, to bring an adult prom to life.

“As a live music lover and an active member of the Gainesville music scene, being able to support them has been the most fulfilling part of my college experience. It’s my way of showing gratitude for their love and friendship,” says Canton, 22, an advertising major at UF.

Canton’s vision came true at 6:30 p.m. at what is known as “The Driptone’s house,” steps away from Ben Hill Griffin stadium.

“My best friend wore my junior prom dress to RLD prom, and it was such a sweet sight,” says Canton.

Now in its second year, RLD prom featured four bands from across the country: Parrotfish, The Driptones, Truth Value and Red Letter Day.

From playing music by the Backseat Lovers to the hit “Murder on the Dancefloor,” the crowd gathered around the stage to enjoy their night in their prom attire.

Sam Reasor, a member of the band Red Letter Day, is dating Canton and commends her with the idea of highlighting Gainesville’s live music scene with a twist.

“When Sara was expressing that no one our age has a good reason to dress up anymore, like we used to for high school events. We were already thinking of throwing a house party last spring, so we just decided to make the theme prom. This is the second iteration of prom,” Reasor said.

Morgan Copeland, 21, is an accounting major who helped facilitate who entered the venue while also enjoying the show for herself.

Copeland was also unable to enjoy her senior prom. Although the parents at her school set up a mock-event for the students, her boyfriend’s mom contracted COVID-19 and she was unable to attend either version.

“The most important thing about this event specifically is that the whole point was to have a night to just dress up again and have fun and hang out with your friends.” Copeland said, “It gives the opportunity to those who maybe didn’t get a prom. It is also an opportunity to support live music and the Gainesville community in general.”

William Jordan, 22, is a Gainesville resident who graduated high school in 2020. Before COVID-19 hit, he was in the running for prom king.

“It’s nice to even have a smidge of what that experience might've been. There is no replicating that high school experience, but if we could replicate it somewhat like that here and contribute to the community and the music scene, I think that's an awesome opportunity,” Jordan said.

“I’ve been to a lot of local festivals, but I can’t remember any of the themes or bands that played at specific events. I think that prom will leave a lasting impression, because there is no other music event like it,” Reasor said.

Alexa Farris, 19, is a health science major who came to the event with two of her close friends. They stood in the backyard of the venue in their formal dresses hoping the rain would allow the show to continue.

“This is my first time dressing up nice at a place in college. Most events are business casual or business so nothing formal like this has happened,” Farris said, “things like this bring people together, normally it's like their one last hurrah.”

Christy Anassa, 19, is an advertising major who attended with Farris.

“I think it's really sad that we don't have this opportunity because a lot of people want to feel pretty. That can mean anything to anyone, but for me it's dressing up and looking nice,” Anassa said, “it's just sad that in college we don't have these fun experiences where you can just wear sparkles or wear a dress or wear a suit and be whatever you want to be.”

Unfortunately, their hopes didn’t hold and it began to rain. But even with the gloomy weather, the night was nothing short of magical. The lights, music and community pushed past the storm.

“We want this year’s prom to be a celebration of our time here and one last hurrah for the music scene we know and love,” Canton said.

“We want to give people the opportunity to express themselves through music and fashion and give them permission to enjoy themselves just for a night.”

Nicole is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing