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Boxcar Books Fundraiser Doubles As "Rock 'N' Roll Prom"

New and used bookstore Boxcar Books and inmate rehabilitation non-profit The Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project are no strangers to second chances.

This extends to the Rock N Roll Prom, a popular yearly fundraiser now in its sixth year that gives attendees the chance to redo that special night in high school - with a few twists.

Prom, Redux

Boxcar Books General and Events Coordinator Stephen Stothard explained the idea behind the unique event: "I think the original idea, and the way we've tried to craft it is kind of like an alternative prom."

The volunteer-run nonprofit Boxcar Books in downtown Bloomington is a meeting space for a variety of literary, activist, and community groups. The store is also home to The Midwest Pages To Prisoners Project, an organization that promotes self-education by providing free books and other reading material upon request to those behind bars.

Both organizations grew out of a grassroots or DIY, Do it Yourself mentality that Stothard called, "an approach, a style of production, and a process that tends not to rely on corporate means to an end."

About 70 people volunteer their time for the annual party at the local Bluebird Nightclub, from DJs and emcees to photobooth photographers and decorators.

A Low-Cost Community Event

Lori Hall Araujo, Boxcar Books volunteer and head of the Rock and Roll Prom decorating committee says the event strives for decor that is "low budget, creative, [with] reuse of materials."

Stothard agreed. "We have stuff that we use at the prom every year that I think we've had since the beginning year, that we just recycle and reuse."

Despite its low cost, though, Rock and Roll Prom typically raises several thousand dollars for Boxcar Books and The Midwest Pages To Prisoners Project.

2010:  A Space Oddity

Taking a page from high school formal dances, event coordinators such as Hall Araujo choose a theme for each year's prom. "Last year our theme was 'Talk Nerdy To Me,'" she says. "That went over very well.  People really delivered in terms of what they were wearing."

This year, for 2010: A Space Oddity, participants are more likely to don silver tunics than pocket protectors.

A GLBT-Friendly Event

The Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls, a roller derby team, will judge a costume contest. According to Hall, Araujo and Stothard, the rules for Prom King and Queen are a little looser than at the typical high school dance.

"Every year in the past for the Best Dressed, we would have Best Drag King and Best Drag Queen.  There's definitely going to be some gender chaos," laughed Hall. Araujo added that Boxcar Books prides itself on being, in many ways, "a queer space that's straight-friendly."

Cover Bands In Space

This year's headliners, a band called Rocket Queen and Pigs in Space made up of local musicians from bands such as Whipoorwill and Magnolia Electric Company, will play a variety of space-themed covers.

Other groups will pay tribute to the 80s and 90s rock groups New Order, Weezer, Violent Femmes, and Guided By Voices.

Stothard admits that the festivities do tend to overshadow the cause, but he is glad the event provides a fun and easy way for people to support community non-profits.

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