By GREG BLUESTEIN
The Associated Press
Sunday, May 14, 2006; 10:07 PM
ATLANTA -- Midway through a love ballad directed at their prom dates, the sea of high school students suddenly parted to allow Georgia's top politician to give the karaoke song his best shot.
Wearing a trendy visor and a neon green glow stick around his neck, Gov. Sonny Perdue joined the group in belting "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."
If the students didn't realize it before, this wasn't the typical post-prom party.
Five busloads of Brookwood High School seniors unloaded on Perdue's front lawn in Atlanta early Sunday for four hours of partying, eating and face time with the governor after their prom.
The grounds of the governor's swank north Atlanta mansion became the temporary home of inflatable obstacle courses where students jousted one another on spongy islands and strapped themselves to bungee cords in a doomed race against elasticity.
Inside the mansion, Waffle House set up shop in the ballroom, dishing out dinner for the first two hours of the party and breakfast during the last two. A wall of video games attracted a legion of students and Don Balfour, the school district's senator, who jostled a Ms. Pacman joystick en route to a high score.
And in a giant tent nearby, a DJ blasted hits and karaoke, inspiring the governor to declare, "'06 seniors rule."
The event's mission, Perdue said, was to encourage responsible behavior for teens and reward the suburban Atlanta high school for its creative efforts to tackle underage drinking.
The school, like many others, boasts a lock-in for seniors called "Project Graduation" that helps prevent dangerous post-graduation parties. And before spring break each year, the school rolls out a weeklong program that promotes safe driving.
Many of the students seemed awe-struck at the preparations.
"It's amazing," said Stephanie Hutton, a sophomore. "It's a dream come true."
Her date, Jeff Lynch, scoffed at the classmates who opted for other parties. Some 300 guests could have attended, but 230 showed.
"This is a crazy night. That's better than all that other stuff," the senior said, waving his arms at his surroundings.
The affair took three months to plan, was financed by $22,000 from the Georgia Sheriff's Association and involved a slew of sponsors, Perdue's staffers said.
Planning a high school party at the governor's mansion also brought a host of unique challenges, namely making sure that young couples didn't slip out of the party to seek alone time in the mansion's 18-acre grounds.
So before the event, volunteers were directed to patrol the grounds in search of any wayward couples.
"We'd rather have them be caught by y'all, than by Georgia State Patrol," Perdue staffer Julie Smith told the volunteers.
On the Net:
Gov. Sonny Perdue: http://www.gov.state.ga.us