BLUE EARTH - A tradition in Blue Earth will rock on tonight.
Teen Night runs from 7-10:30 p.m. at Pemberton Auditorium. Kids in grades 6-8 can shoot hoops; dance to music; eat snacks; "use loud voices, run, jump, act silly, anything that is considered safe behavior. This event is set up for kids to be kids," said Sharon Hoyt, school nurse and long-time supervisor of the event.
There are 10 parent/chaperones to help keep an eye on things.
"The kids are great. They listen to us; very respectful," Hoyt said.
She is not sure when Teen Night began. It already was established when Hoyt joined the school staff 22 years ago.
Lots of things have changed over the years, but not the formula for Teen Night, which is scheduled about five times in the school year.
"The venue has stayed exactly the same," Hoyt said. "We don't change it because it works."
The format has always included activities such as basketball, ping pong or foosball, and dancing.
"Half of the gym has baskets brought down: kids shooting free throws and basketball-type games. The other half is dancing," Hoyt said. "Kids dart from one to the other all night long."
There's a concession stand with the traditional candy bars and pop, to healthier choices such as pretzels and water, which organizers have trouble keeping stocked because of demand.
Professionally, Hoyt sees a lot of pluses to the event.
The kids get to run around and burn off energy, so there's a physical benefit, but there's social ones as well.
"Our city doesn't have a lot for kids this age: no bowling alley or skating rink," Hoyt noted. "So, it's nice Community Education can provide this for them. It's quite the social event.
"It's a good way for me as a school nurse to see the entire cross section of our middle school," she added. "It's a lot of time for me to see how they interact with each other. When you see that many kids have fun together in a safe place, it's a good thing.
"We usually get around 150 kids," said Hoyt.
The night is only open to kids from Blue Earth Area Schools.
"It's been very popular," she said.
So much so that older kids have tried to sneak back in.
"Kids who move on to the higher grades miss it. They come back and stand at the door and say 'Can we come in?'" Hoyt said.
Kids remember coming, even years later, and Hoyt is seeing it come full circle.
"Some of our parents chaperoning reminisce about coming to Teen Night. I watch their eyes light up [as they say], 'I'm chaperoning tonight,' [and I tell them], 'Cool to have you back,'" Hoyt said.