By Angela Peacock
Choosing a partner to waltz in circles while weaving pastel-colored ribbons in the sky has been a tradition at Portales High School for 76 years.
Originally a simple winding of one pole, Portales’ Maypole celebration began in 1929 when dancing was prohibited at the school. Now it’s believed to be the longest consecutive maypole event in the country.
This year’s event is set for 8 p.m. today at the PHS gymnasium.
Each year a Maypole May Queen is selected. She is the only girl to wear a white dress while all the other girls wear pastel-colored dresses. The young men wear tuxedos.
As the Maypole winding ceremony begins, twin pianos fill the gymnasium with waltz strains, couples curtsy and bow to each other before moving into their positions.
“Maypole is really significant to the girls at Portales High School and if I could do it all over again I definitely would,” said Laura Hamblin, who wound the Maypole in 2001.
Since history of the Maypole dance is about fertility and pagan ritual, Hamblin said she can’t believe the dance still exists in Portales.
“I’m surprised in the Bible belt they continue the Maypole tradition,” Hamblin said. “But I think it’s really, really amazing that people are still enjoying this tradition knowing where it originated from.”
Having the opportunity to watch both a son and daughter participate in such a unique high school tradition is something Laura’s mother Jenny Hamblin said she’ll never forget.
“As a mom all my kids make me tear up when I see them do the amazing things they do,” said Jenny, who was glad her children participated in the Maypole ceremonies. “It’s such a very pretty dance. All the girls are dressed up in their beautiful gowns and the young men in their tuxedos, and it’s touching because you see your kids all day in jeans and T-shirts and then at Maypole they’re just stunning.”