After a morning spent revisiting the halls of Payson High School, where he filmed several scenes from “Footloose,” Kevin Bacon left the success of the school’s final prom up to the students — but not without some encouragement.

‘You were all just tireless’: Kevin Bacon praises Payson High students as he returns to ‘Footloose’ roots

Kevin Bacon attends Payson High School’s prom ... in spirit

Amid the 40th anniversary of “Footloose” — and as Payson High School will soon be demolished to make way for a new school — Bacon made a highly-anticipated return to the small Utah town. Out on the high school’s football field, he chatted with the students who spent a year doing everything in their power to get him there, and put together resource kits for organizations in Utah as part of his charity organization, SixDegrees.

The actor’s return came on the morning of Payson High School’s “Footloose”-themed prom — the last prom in a building that has kept the spirit and history of the 1984 film alive for four decades. But Bacon didn’t don a maroon suit and black bowtie, or emphatically shout “Let’s dance!” for the special occasion — at least not in person.

“The thing is, tonight, it’s not about me, it’s about you,” he said in a special video message that played at the prom. “I want you all to have a great time, and most importantly, be good to each other. And don’t forget to cut loose.”

The video then cut to the final scene from “Footloose,” where Bacon’s Ren McCormack and his friends dance the night away after standing up to their town’s ban on dancing and rock ‘n’ roll. As the footage unfolded, Payson High School students cheered and broke out in a line dance to Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose.”

A ‘we did it’ moment

Payson High School modeled its prom after that final “Footloose” scene, decorating with colorful streamers and strings of bright lights, balloon arches and stars hanging from the ceiling.

There was a fair share of 1980s music — the royalty dance featured the seniors dancing to “Almost Paradise,” the love theme from “Footloose.” Hits from the early ‘80s, including Van Halen’s “Jump” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” played throughout the night (Taylor Swift and Katy Perry also got a decent amount of playtime).

The big dance unfolded in the school’s gym, where just a month earlier, the kids gathered together for an assembly at 5 a.m. and learned that Bacon would be coming to their town.

Senior students take part in the promenade during Payson High School’s prom on Saturday, April 20, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The news wasn’t necessarily a complete shock. The students had spent the past year diligently campaigning to get Bacon dancing in their halls again, and the actor had been liking some of their videos on TikTok and Instagram, Alayna Bullard, the student body officer over events, told the Deseret News.

But hearing him make the official announcement still brought plenty of emotions.

“I definitely started sobbing,” Gracie Raff, a Payson High sophomore and student body officer, told the Deseret News. “Literally at the assembly we had, I was just hysterically sobbing. ... It was such a ‘we did it’ moment. And it felt so good to finally figure out.”

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While Jenny Staheli, Payson High School’s student council adviser, said she always hoped Bacon would show up, finally seeing him in person brought a sense of relief and excitement.

“I really was just very pleased, really was just so happy and felt so proud of my kids that they accomplished this thing for themselves and just grateful to Kevin Bacon, honestly,” she told reporters out on the high school football field Saturday morning.

“He didn’t have to say yes,” she continued. “And it’s taken some doing to get him here today, and the willingness that he showed to do that, what a generous guy. It’s great that he was willing to play along.”