By Tony Parra
People from many Portales High School generations celebrated what many called a cherished, time-honored tradition of the winding of the Maypole on Thursday.
The Maypole tradition history dates back to 1929 and is the only maypole tradition in high school history in the United States which has been going on in consecutive years for 76 years. The Maypole ceremony consists of couples dancing around two poles, one on each side of the high school basketball court.
There were 40 couples in the 2004 Maypole event this year and according to school officials the largest group of couples was in 1978 when there were 52 couples.
At one point in time during the event, the women dressed in an array of bright pink, tan and lime green dresses danced around the pole, each of them holding a lime green or pink streamer, which was wound around the poles. The queen is the only one who wears white and sits in a chair during the winding.
Carlee Dawn Stevens, the 2004 Maypole Queen , knows all about the tradition and what it means to the community.
“It means a lot to me,” Stevens said. “It was a lot of fun. Our class grew closer during practices and rehearsals. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Many of the Maypole participants have a family history of participating in the Maypole tradition. Brian Berry was coupled with Nicole DeGroot and his roots grow deep in the tradition.
“My mom (Kathy Tech) wound and my dad was an attendant (Lonnie Berry),” Berry said. “There’s a lot of parents who have been in Maypole.”
One of the parents who wound in Maypole was Bonnie Sink, who said she did the ceremonial dance in 1980 and was able to watch her daughter Ashlea Sink carry on the tradition.
“I didn’t give her any advice, I’m just very proud of her,” Bonnie said. “We’re very blessed to have such a beautiful young lady. The ladies who put it on and volunteered did an incredible job.”
Stevens said members of the community have congratulated her for the honor and reminded her of what the event means to the community, which was evident by the packed gym during the ceremony.
“It is something special,” Stevens said. “A lot of people from my church (Soutside Church of Christ) have told me how cool it is and how special it is. It was wonderful and all the girls looked beautiful.”
Josh Teague’s grandmother, Betty Chisholm, traveled from Marshville, Missouri to watch the event and will watch her grandson graduate today.
“I’m thrilled to see it,” Chisholm said.
Teague’s mother, Marilyn Teague, said the Maypole and high school graduation culminates a high school career for her son and his classmates.
“This is a great group of kids,” Marilyn said. “I’ve been able to see them grow up. I’ve seen them so involved. They are so beautiful.”