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Finding Your Inner Geek

By V. Paul Virtucio
April 11, 2003 | Duluth News Tribune

For last year’s Geek Prom, Ryan Amundson found his entire geeky attire at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store: Plaid pants, striped sweater and a button-up shirt.

Then he applied makeup so he looked like he’d been wiping his nose for 10 years straight. He wanted to look like somebody who was allergic to everything around him and obsessed over having an allergen-free environment.

Gina Giacomini sewed her attire from about $4 worth of material. Thirty minutes before the prom, she added some black and gold trim to an oversized light blue shirt. Then she found a black skirt and tights. Viola! Giacomini wore a fab Star Trek outfit from the 1960s.

For their efforts, Amundson and Giacomini were crowned King and Queen Geek among the more than 300 people who partied at the NorShor Theatre.
The Duluthians didn’t win just because of their outlandish attire. They won because they’re real geeks, not wannabes or posers. Amundson suffers from allergies and Giacomini calls herself a true Trekkie.

They’re so proud to be geeks that they’re coming back Saturday with beefed up geek-wear as guest judges for the second annual Geek Prom.

“There will be those people who just stand out. You can tell they spend a lot of time and creativity and effort in looking geeky. That scores points with me,” Giacomini said. “Then you see those people who you know they’re not faking it. That scores a lot of points, if they’re not afraid to be who they are.”

Geek Prom kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday in the NorShor Theatre, 211 E. Superior St. Like last year, attendees will be ushered into the prom in the Grand March. That’s when six judges will rate their geek-factor. This year’s royalty will be announced at 11 p.m.

Giacomini and Amundson will share judging duties with George Kessler, former KBJR-TV Channel 6 meteorologist; Kate Hart, owner of Sunhillow Books; Amy Abts, a Duluth singer/songwriter; and Harry Welty, a Duluth School Board member.

“We’ve set ourselves up to have Grade A celebrity judges,” said Paul Lundgren, the prom’s co-founder. “I guess we feel a bit challenged to put on a better show than last year … One of the things we know is the harder we try, the more we might end up messing things up.”

“Mostly we just need to bring the geeks there, give them music to dance to and try to stay out of their way.”

Hospital People, a reunited Duluth band, and Manplanet from the Twin Cities will provide the music.

The point of the evening is for geeks to come as they are and be who they are. A geek isn’t consumed by vanity and doesn’t succumb to peer pressure, Amundson said.

Hart says she can tell a geek by watching for out-of-date clothing and unsure body language. Dressing the part might take a little extra effort because folks are more used to dressing to fit in, Giacomini said.

To look like a geek, people have to let their individuality shine through, she added. That leads to a major marker of geekiness: what’s on the inside.

“I think the average geek is a little more inquisitive than the average person sitting in front of the television watching war coverage brought to you by GE,” Hart said.

Last year’s Geek Prom received plenty of media attention: articles in newspapers across the country, a mention on CNN and other TV news shows and features on National Public Radio.

It costs about $3,000 to put on Geek Prom, which is not intended to be a money-maker, Lundgren said.

Organizing the prom has become mostly a labor of love for Lundgren, his co-founder Scott Lunt and 10 volunteers of the prom committee.

“There’s a little geek in all of us. Sometimes our daily lives don’t allow us to really let that geek out. This is an occasion when it’s encouraged to look stupid and dance poorly,” Lundgren said. “It’s a slow process taking over the world, but the geek shall inherit the earth. Make no mistake about that.”