Helena Rodriguez: PNT Staff Writer
Tana Prewitt has been planning the perfect waltz for four years.
It was in eighth grade that Prewitt and Bradley West, her friend since kindergarten, agreed to wind Maypole together during their senior year at Portales High School.
Prewitt and West, along with 27 other couples, will do just that on Wednesday and Thursday night in the gymnasium at PHS where many generations and thousands of other couples have come together since 1929 to share the perfect waltzes as they wind the Maypoles and create a rainbow of pastel colors with the girls’ formal, full-length, hoop dresses.
Thursday will mark the 76th year that PHS has observed this tradition. Although the number of couples is significantly down from the 40 who wound Maypole at PHS in 2004, the annual affair will remain true to its original presentation — girls wearing vintage style, full-hooped skirts and boys wearing formal tuxedo suits.
“Maypole is more like a fairy tale, it’s a chance for us seniors to all come together for one more night and feel like princesses,” Prewitt said during a recent rehearsal.
Although Prewitt said the girls have been teased for their dresses as looking like cupcakes, she said she is proud to be a part of this long-time tradition and will wear a pastel pink dress just like her mother, Ursula Parker, did when she wound Maypole in 1984. Prewitt’s uncle, Wade Parker, also wound Maypole at PHS in 1987.
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. The original intention of the dance does not seem to sway participants such as Rachelle Self, who is a third-generation Maypole participant.
“I’ve been looking forward to winding Maypole since I watched my cousins wind Maypole when I was in junior high,” Self said. “It is an important family tradition. It means a lot to me because my grandparents also were in Maypole and I will be carrying on this family tradition.”
Her mother, Liz (Wood) Self, didn’t actual wind Maypole but served as a May queen’s attendant in 1982. Her grandmother, Georgie (McKenzie) Wood, was also an attendant, and her father, Rod Self, wound Maypole in 1974. Also, Self’s aunt, Mary Wood, was the May queen in 1970. Her mom also served as a flower girl in 1970 when her aunt was queen and her brother, Ethan, served as a crown bearer at last year’s Maypole.
Self’s mother, Liz, said of Maypole, “It’s like a night at the ball. That’s what makes it Maypole. I’m proud to see my oldest daughter winding. We have five kids and our youngest one is almost 11 months old, so we really hope to see the youngest one wind too someday.”
Although girls seem to get into Maypole more than boys because they spend months getting the perfect dress, PHS senior Landon Bryant said he is proud to be a part of the Maypole tradition as well.
“My friends are the ones who pushed me into winding Maypole at first, but now I’m glad that I am,” Bryant said.
Veronica Hernandez is this year’s Maypole queen. She’ll be watching from the stage along with her two attendants, Jessica Velasco and Sarah Taylor.
“I think I will miss out a little bit because the whole pole winding looks like fun, but at least I will still get to watch it,” Hernandez said.
Portales High School 76th annual Maypole schedule:
(Final dress rehearsal)
*This is the only night videotaping and photography will be permitted
5:30 p.m. – Videotaping
8 p.m. – Flash photography
8 p.m. – Actual Maypole performance (no videotaping or photographs allowed)
Performances are free and will be held in the Portales High School gymnasium