IT IS truly a sight to behold: Ten inches high and covered in rhinestones, this year’s Tybee Prom crown sparkles as if lit with the aura of an imperial monarch, or at least one of the classier reality TV celebrities.
But there’s no need to marry a millionaire or subdue the peasants to wear it. This is Tybee Island, where flip-flops are official attire and anyone can be inducted as royalty for the price of a raffle ticket. (And since it’s a capitalistic democracy and not King’s Landing, you get a deal: Three for $5 or seven for $10.)
The bedazzled diadem will be bestowed upon a new queen or king this Saturday, June 11 at Tybee American Legion Post #154 at the culmination of the Tybee Prom. All proceeds from the event and raffle benefit the Humane Society for Greater Savannah.
This year’s theme is “Pretty in Pink,” so expect plenty of rosy tulle, coral cummerbunds and fuchsia feather boas. Attendees are invited to get creative: The crowning of prom royalty may be up to chance, but the winner of the evening’s Most Original Ensemble will be chosen by a council of discriminating judges.
When it comes to busting a move, however, all are encouraged to dance like no one’s watching. The Girlfriends and Sassy Cats & the Toms Band have the musical spectrum covered from sock hop favorites to party anthems to disco infernos to beach music, and DJ Barri Marshall reminds that there will be no parking on the dance floor between sets. Snacks from North Beach Grill will be provided, and the Legion offers a stocked cash bar.
Sisters Shirley Sessions and Sandy McCloud have been the organizational force behind the annual “informal formal” that’s inspired gratuitous sequins and sea oat corsages since 2004.
“People just love to dress up and dance,” says the petite Sessions, whose spiky haircut and colorful wardrobe has led the fashion-forward island soirée.
“It’s so quirky and fun, so Tybee.”
With the contagious spirit of a couple of kind cheerleaders, the energetic duo and their cadre of volunteers plans and implements the whole prom shebang, from the decorations to the flyers to selling tickets. McCloud, a tall redhead, even takes the stage as one of the Girlfriends’ crooning sirens and as one of the Sassy Cats.
“We both wear a lot of hats,” admits McCloud.
“It’s OK, we look good in hats,” adds her older sister as they both dissolve into laughter.
Seasonal beach bunnies for their entire lives, the sisters escaped Atlanta and moved to the island for good in 1998. Each quickly found a place within the greater Savannah community: Sessions served on the Tybee City Council and recently retired after 15 years as the director for United Way’s Hands On Savannah volunteer program. McCloud had her own morning radio show on 98.7 The River for half a decade and currently puts her charms to work as a real estate agent with Century 21 Fox Properties.
Sessions lives on the south end of the island and McCloud the north, but that’s the end of the sibling rivalry. The two regularly travel together and just returned from a trip to Paris, where they explored the city’s famous museums and catacombs.
Both also hold a giant place in their hearts for the area’s homeless animals. For the past three years they have directed the prom’s proceeds to HSGS, where Sessions has served multiple rounds on the board. Among the programs near-and-dear to her are Operation New Hope, which pairs dogs with prison inmates in partnership with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, and the long-awaited low-cost spay/neuter facility slated to open this September.
“The spay/neuter clinic has been a dream for so many people for so long,” says Sessions. “We have such an issue with animal overpopulation, and this will help control it.”
The sisters also organize a tour of beach cottages designed by Jane Coslick every December, and they estimate they’ve raised between $70,000 and $80,000 for HSGS over the years.
“Neither of us handle any more pets, but we can help this way,” rumbles McCloud in her smooth radio voice.
Mind you, the only animals allowed at the Tybee Prom are stags: You don’t need a date to attend, but you must be over 21. And should you hold the winning royal rhinestone ticket, be prepared to hold court: Sessions wants to make clear that wearing the crown comes with certain responsibilities.
“Number one, you’re representing Tybee, so don’t do anything too terribly embarrassing,” she admonishes. “I mean, within reason.”
“Two, you must help cultivate compassion for the homeless dogs and cats in our community. And lastly, and most importantly, you have to lead the way for having fun.”
Her sister concurs with a vigorous nod. “Absolutely. Isn’t that what Tybee is all about?”