SOUTH GLENS FALLS — It takes an entire community to pull off the South High Marathon Dance each year.
There’s the prizes, the food, the decorations, the security, parking, music, special events, selecting recipients and, of course, raising all the money — of which the dance raised $831,191.15 this year.
“There are tons and tons of little moving parts that people don’t think about,” said Pat Fish, a 2014 South High graduate who is in charge of social media for the event this year. “There’s the prize patrol — they get the prizes for the top fundraising dancers; there’s a full department for parking, and they are busing people back and forth; there are over 50 security (guards) who have been coming here for a long time.”
SOUTH GLENS FALLS — The South High Marathon Dance has raised more than $7 million in its 41-year history, an enormous amount for a student club.
As Fish talks about all those “moving parts,” the list of what it takes to make the SHMD a success grows.
“There’s a whole department for (food) concessions and a separate department for feeding the dancers,” Fish said on Saturday afternoon. “Just think about all the people counting all the money. There are donations coming in until the last minute and they are counting all that.”
Now in its 41st year, the South High Marathon Dance has grown from 50 student dancers raising $1,500 to 815 dancers aiming to beat last year’s total of $823,614.91. And in their four decades of service to the community, the marathon dance has raised over $5 million to assist individuals and organizations.
“Over 80 percent of the student body participates,” said Fish, adding that at about 11 p.m. on Saturday, at the end of 28 hours, the final total will be announced.
Because this is a student-run event, with lots of parent and community volunteer help, a student chairperson is selected by the students at the beginning of the school year.
“In the beginning of the year the (SHMD) committee put up nominations on the board of chair-worthy students,” said senior Morgan Smith, 18, chairwoman of this year’s dance, adding that she was selected by a student vote.
And the work began right away.
“The committee began brainstorming and holding fundraising events,” she said.
In addition to planning all the “moving parts” of the actual event, Smith and her team had to select the recipients of this year’s donations.
“There were over 200 individual applications,” she said, adding that there were also organizations who applied.
Along with members of the committee and some friends, Smith typed up the information from the applications and made applicant packets for the committee to review. In one committee meeting, they looked over everything and held open discussions about the applications; at another meeting, they voted.
“We want to make sure to help as many people as possible,” she said.
And sometimes when they weren’t able to select an applicant, they selected an organization that could help the individual.
“Even if not a recipient, we try to help as much as we can,” she said.
At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, nearly 21 hours into the marathon, and with everyone feeling a bit tired, the funds were rolling in. The 50/50 raffle had raised $8,000. “It’s looking good so far,” said Smith. “We’re building up right now.”
According to Fish, the bulk of the money is raised by the students going door to door and asking friends and family for donations. And on Saturday afternoon there was a break in the dancing for student fundraising awards. There were 815 dancers this year and each one had a minimum $150 donation to dance.
The top donor, sophomore Jason Viger, raised $13,106.
“A few years ago, I came in third with $4,000,” said Fish. “Now sixth place students are at $6,000.”
This year, in light of recent school shootings, security was enhanced and for the first year, the SHMD used metal detectors and hand-held wands at the entrances. Additionally, New York State Troopers, sheriff deputies and police dogs were present. The metal detecting equipment was loaned to the dance from The Great Escape.
On Saturday afternoon, a representative of the Queensbury amusement park presented the marathon with a check for $7,000 from the employees who had raised it for the effort.
According to Smith, running the marathon dance has really changed her perspective.
“When you are chairperson, you meet the recipients first-hand,” she said. “This has changed everything in my life. I want to keep doing this the rest of my life.”