SOUTH GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Friday, a dragon found residence inside the gymnasium at South Glens Falls Senior High School. Needless to say, the students were thrilled.

The dragon was one of several hand-crafted decorations getting set up in the gym for the South High Marathon Dance, set to begin Friday night and run for 24 hours and into the evening of Saturday, March 4. The theme for the 46th annual dance is “Fantasy” – and for South High, it takes everyone’s imagination to make it happen.

“We’ve been working day and night to get the decorations up in the gym,” said senior Mary Fitzsimmons, a member of the marathon dance’s student board. “We’ve been here really, really late at night, with a bunch of kids, to make it look really good.”

south high marathon dance 2023
Teacher Tom Myott places a dragon head on a castle wall inside the South High gymnasium for the 2023 South High Marathon Dance in South Glens Falls, N.Y.

The students of South Glens Falls High School dance for a good cause every year, raising money to help families get care for members suffering from debilitating illnesses – and to fund the organizations with their own role in that same fight. Over the course of 24 hours starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, they will be joined by middle school students and community members, and put on costume contests, a variety show and more.

The high school gymnasium is the dance’s traditional home – but one where it hasn’t been held since the COVID-19 pandemic. The early March event was last held just a couple short weeks before the 2020 lockdown came into effect. In the following two years, the dance was held at Six Flags Great Escape, utilizing outdoor space to ease social distancing concerns. The return to the school makes this year a first for more than just the freshmen.

“I was at the ones at The Great Escape, but I’ve never experienced one (at the school),” said Sophia Belden, a junior whose first year as a dancer was the first of those COVID-altered years. “I was here when we got to dance for an hour when I was in elementary school and middle school, so I’ve always gotten a little taste but never gotten to really experience it.”

The South High Marathon Dance is a nonprofit, with nearly $10 million raised over the last 45 years. The organization is run by faculty and community members, but the revolving student board gives students direct input – and a face-to-face look at what it takes to put the dance on every year. In the days leading up to the dance, students like Belden and Fitzsimmons have been visiting mini-dances at South Glens Falls’ elementary and middle schools – hype events that get even the district’s youngest excited to support their community.

This year’s marathon dance will support 22 beneficiaries. The students sort through over 100 applications to get there, after some background checks and vetting from teachers.

“It’s very hard. It’s one of the hardest decisions we have to make here,” said senior Gillian Capozucca. “Obviously they’re all in need, they’re all very deserving, but ultimately it comes down to a student vote to decide.”

That same student group also chose the “Fantasy” theme. Decorations made by the school’s art clubs go a long way in transforming the gymnasium into a wholly different space every year – something else that was lost when the festivities had to move outdoors. At the last in-house marathon dance, a pirate ship poked through the wall, accompanied by sea creatures, aquatic lighting and buried treasure.

The South High Marathon Dance kicks things off at 7 p.m. Friday night. Visitors will be allowed in until 10 p.m., and then will be welcomed back on Saturday. See the full schedule for more.