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Geek prom 2008: This year’s event features a tribute to
D&D’s inventor and the ever-popular Spaz Dance contest

By Ann Klefstad
April 10, 2007 | Duluth News Tribune

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.”

Geek beginnings

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.

“Maybe there’s 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 recalls.

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.

Prom favorites

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 to perform.

“My favorite is an old man who squatted on a barstool and became a vulture,” Lundgren said.

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 resumes.”

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 muses.

Geek experience

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 shine.”