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A Night to Remember returns to the Ventura Fairgrounds

Rihanna Samples
March 8, 2024, marked the return of the well-known and highly-anticipated event: Night to Remember. Held at Ventura County Fairgrounds, Night to Remember served as a way for people to connect with those around them, while honoring those with disabilities. In this photo, one of the many guests walks down the red carpet waving at those around him, while his host enthusiastically helps him toward San Miguel Hall.

After five years, the highly-anticipated Night to Remember — a prom for young adults with disabilities — returned to the Ventura County Fairgrounds, Calif., on March 8, 2024. Ranging from ages 12 to 25, these students and young adults, also known as guests, were given the opportunity to attend a prom held in their honor, a chance to feel seen and celebrated. Hosted by Mission Church, but open to everyone to volunteer, guests were given everything they could hope for to make the evening a magical experience. 

The first Night to Remember was held at the Poinsettia Pavilion in 2012. Starting with anywhere from 30 to 50 guests, it was relatively small, but revolutionary for its time. “It was the first time an event like that had been done in Ventura … to help celebrate our students with disabilities who are usually overlooked and under celebrated,” Taylor Hunt, the Event Director of Night to Remember, said. 

As each year has passed, Night to Remember has grown in its number of guests and volunteers. This year, there were 367 guests, around 400 hosts and over 1,500 other volunteers. All of the volunteers and hosts came together to make and unforgettable experience for the guests and their families.

After choosing her prom dress and getting her hair and makeup done, this guest walked down the red carpet waving at the paparazzi who cheered and clapped. Her host walked behind her, letting her enjoy her glamorous entrance. (Rihanna Samples)

Volunteering on behalf of the National Honor Society Club at Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech), Finn Alleman ‘26 said, “I know that most of the guests there didn’t have many opportunities to attend a … school dance, so Night to Remember was very special to them. It was important to me that the guest I was paired with had the best night she could have had.”

Guests arrived at the fairgrounds around 5:30 p.m. to check in and then were taken to the Anacapa Dance Hall to get ready for the night. Prior to the event, guests got to choose from a variety of prom dresses and tuxedos to wear for the special night, all completely free of cost. Along with the outfits, volunteer hair and makeup artists were readily available for any guest who wanted to be glammed up before the party. 

After guests were finished getting ready, they got to choose who they wanted as their host for the evening. Hosts were made up of volunteers from the community between the ages of 15 and 25 who needed no qualifications besides the willingness to be fully engaged with the guests and make the evening memorable for them.

Amelia Schmidt ‘25 expressed, “As a host, it was my responsibility to make sure that the guests had a good time.” After getting paired with a guest, she, and every other host, got to meet the parents of their guest and learn about any specific accommodations “whether dietitian things … [or] how they communicated, because some were nonverbal.”

As one of the guests who wasn’t weary of noise, the paparazzi went wild, cheering and celebrating this guest as he danced down the runway. The paparazzi was one of the many integral parts that kept Night to Remember moving so smoothly. (Rihanna Samples)

After getting paired with their hosts, guests then got to take a ride in either a limo, party bus or classic car around the fairgrounds where they were dropped off in front of San Miguel Hall to walk down the paparazzi-filled red carpet into the event.

Mikaela Clabaugh ‘25 volunteered to be part of the paparazzi and elaborated on what the responsibilities were as a member, explaining, “We got to clap for the guests as they entered the building [and] depending on the guests’ hearing sensitivity, we either got to be really loud or we did silent claps with jazz hands.”

The paparazzi was composed of hundreds of volunteers ranging from all different age groups whose purpose was to welcome the guests to the party. They were instructed to make every guest feel as welcome as possible, giving just as much energy to the first guest as the last. The positive environment of the paparazzi set the tone of the evening, allowing many of the guests to ecstatically walk down the red carpet, high-fiving members of the paparazzi and dancing all the way into the building. 

After walking down the runway with their hosts, the guests entered San Miguel Hall, which was transformed into a magical venue. With a professional DJ, professional photos, a photo booth, some food and a dance floor, guests and hosts were able to dance and enjoy the night together. 

Not only was it impactful for the guests but according to Hunt, “It’s … impactful … for families of students with disabilities too, because unfortunately, most of them are used to getting the scraps for their kids or having to fight for their kids, whether it’s for an education plan or for them to be treated like a normal kid.”

[Guests] can cut loose and be fully themselves and get to have an experience that is a typical high school [and] coming-of-age experience; that is prom.”

— Taylor Hunt, Event Director of A Night to Remember

Its impacts extend even further, casting its net across the community. When asked about the importance of the event on the Ventura community, Clabaugh said, “I think it brings neurotypical and neurodiverse people together in a way that … helps promote natural communication and connection between the two groups.” 

Since 2012, Night to Remember has grown and evolved into what it is today: an opportunity to bring together everyone in the community to celebrate young adults with disabilities. As Hunt said, “It’s so cool to see what our community can do when we all rally together, and we link arms with one another, and we live that way like it’s not about us.”

A Night to Remember is set to return in 2025, with more details on the way. If interested in volunteering or finding more information, visit

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About the Contributor
Rihanna Samples
Rihanna Samples, Multimedia Editor
A junior who is constantly looking at the world through the lens of a camera.

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Comments on articles are screened and those determined by editors to be crude, overly mean-spirited or that serve primarily as personal attacks will not be approved. The Editorial Review Board, made up of 11 student editors and a faculty adviser, make decisions on content.
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  • K

    Kristin IppolitoMar 21, 2024 at 10:41 pm

    Beautiful story. So nice to read positive news of humanity.