By Helena Rodriguez
More than half a century ago, Josh Geissinger’s grandfather, Wayne Wallace, wound the maypole at Portales High School.
That was in 1929.
Seventy-five years later, Geissinger is following in the footsteps of his grandfather as well as his sister Kristen and is taking part in the maypole tradition at PHS. The first maypole at PHS was held in 1929. Kristen wound the maypole in 2002.
Geissinger and his partner, Malissa Maloney, are among 40 couples who will wind pastel pink and light green streamers around the maypole inside the Portales High School gym at 8 p.m. on Thursday night.
Dress rehearsal for Maypole is Wednesday evening. Video cameras will only be allowed at the 5 p.m. rehearsal and cameras and flash photography will be allowed at an 8 p.m. rehearsal.
Thursday’s official performance will be closed off for videotaping and photography.
Maypole queen Carlee Stevens chose this year’s colors for the streamers.
“Winding maypole is cool,” said Geissinger, who said guys probably don’t get as excited as the girls do about the formal affair. They simply rent a tuxedo, while girls spend months looking for — or making — the perfect dress.
Carey Smith is having her mother handmake her greenish-blue, satin gown that has so far required about 16 yards of material but saved her at least $100 more than if she had simply purchased a dress.
“I wanted my maypole dress handmade so I can have it just like I want it and there will be no one else with a dress like mine,” Smith said.
Smith first heard of maypole when she moved to Portales from South Carolina when she was a freshman.
“I didn’t know what maypole was and when they told me it was a fertility dance, I was like ‘OK,’” Smith said. “But now I’m really looking forward to maypole. I’m looking forward to my family being here and to being with my senior class. That’s why I want to be a part of it,” she said.
Whether the PHS seniors grew up in Portales their entire life, like Geissinger, or just part of it, like Smith, the celebration becomes a staple of their high school years.
“I’m winding maypole because it’s a tradition at PHS. It’s cool that we’re one of the few schools that still does it. I think there is a school in Kentucky that does it,” Geissinger said. “Maypole is another way for us to make memories with our class before we go our separate ways.”
Only seniors are allowed to wind maypole at PHS. Martha Crane, the maypole coordinator for the past six years, said the number of couples winding is slightly up from 34 couples and two solo winders last year.
“The most couples the school has had was 56 couples in 1978,” Crane said.
Maypole is historically a fertility and pagan ritual, but at PHS, it has become like a second prom for graduating seniors, only much more formal. Crane said girls are required to wear dresses with full skirts so the dresses have remained pretty traditional.
“There have only been slight changes in dress styles over the years,” Crane said. “This year, a lot of the girls are wearing sleeveless dresses.”
During maypole, Smith will sing a duet, “The Prayer,” along with Dane Wilkerson, and will also sing other songs with a choir ensemble.