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Nerding it up in Minnesota

By Caryn Rousseau
May 10, 2007 | ASAP

Paul Lundgren embraces his inner geekiness.

Growing up, he knew he wasn't the coolest guy in school. His sister beat him up, he says, and he had to wear a retainer. In 2002, Lundgren decided that he and his fellow nerds and dorks should join forces for a good time. His idea? The first Geek Prom.

"It came out of a feeling that the social misfits of the world needed their own prom, a gathering to celebrate their awkwardness," Lundgren, a freelance writer from Duluth, Minn., said. "I think a lot of people try to cover up how geeky they are and I've always felt that nerdiness is something to be proud of. Geekiness is the spice of life."

The sixth annual Geek Prom is set for May 12 in St. Paul, Minn., where Lundgren expects 350 people age 18 and over to attend at between $10 and $15 a ticket.

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

With those hundreds of fellow geeks, Lundgren says he feels empowered.

"It's about the knowledge that I'm not alone," Lundgren says. "There are many many other geeks out there."

Prom Scene

Just where do they hold this annual celebration of geekdom? The Science Museum of Minnesota, of course, where it's not your usual night out.

What to Expect

Geek Wear: Geek Prom is part costume party, part formal dance. Lundgren says mainstays include dressing as Star Trek characters, wearing lab coats, marching band uniforms, powder blue tuxedos, hideous pink dresses or contorting cardboard boxes into sort-of computer outfits. "For most people that come to Geek Prom, this is what they wear anyway," Lundgren says.

Geek Drinks: Every year boasts a themed drink, Lundgren says, drinks named after famous nerds or super heros. Some examples: Incredible Hulk drink, Leonard Nimoy drink or the Pocket Protector drink.

Geek Events: There's the king and queen coronation and the spaz-dancing competition with awards given to the best female and male participants. There's also the "geek streak," or as Lundgren describes it, "seven naked nerds come running through the room." And if you have a collection of, say, stickers? Bring it and show it off, Lundgren says.
Geek Royalty

Last year's King Geek, Eric Houston of Hudson, Wis., and Queen Geek, Shari Hartshorn of St. Paul, Minn., will be on hand Saturday night to pass on their titles.

Hartshorn says a panel of geek judges decides who will be the prom royalty. Among her Queen Geek biography, she lists volunteering at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, taking calculus in college for fun and describes herself as a science fiction and fantasy nut.

"As prom queen it was my job to instill the general happiness of accepting your inner geek, being accepting of the fact that, 'Yes, I am a geek and I'm OK with that. I have fun with that,'" she said.