By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
The Portales High School girls danced wearing vibrant green, peach, pink and purple dressers as they wound streamers of the same color around two poles, carrying on a tradition which has lasted more than 75 years.
The PHS boys in their tuxedos danced along with the females during the 77th Annual Maypole on Thursday night. Veronica Hernandez, in her white dress was crowned the queen of the Maypole.
“It’s real exciting,” Hernandez said. “I’ve wanted to wind for a long time. This is one of the last times we’ll be together before graduation. This is a nice memory. We’ve worked really hard. Everyone looks nice and happy.”
Lou Sikes, one of the sponsors, said Hernandez and attendants Sarah Taylor and Jessica Estelle Velasco helped decorate the lobby area. All of the participants in the Maypole are high school seniors.
“It’s a big tradition,” Davinna Alford said. “Our sponsors (Sikes and Marilyn Stratton) have put a lot of work into it. We wouldn’t have done it without them. It’s so exciting. It seems so unreal. You watch everybody else do it.”
Senior Falan Duran sang “I Hope You Dance” while Kristi Arnold and Angel Banda sang “Breakaway.” Many seniors sang during one of their final moments together, capped off with their high school graduation tonight.
Carlee Stevens was the Maypole queen in 2004 and Krystal Trujillo was the queen in 2003. The event started in 1929 and Portales High School is the only high school which has done it for so long.
The tradition is a family tradition. An indicator was the majority of people which stood up when the crowd was asked to stand if they were family members of participants in the 2005 Maypole. Sikes, who was in the 1969 Maypole, said Barbara George helped out with this year’s Maypole.
Maypole participant Samantha Pena said her sister, Felicia Pena, and other family members participated in the Maypole when they were seniors.
“I’m pretty good at it.” Pena joked with a smile, adding that she and her classmates have been practicing since after spring break. “It’s pretty fun. It’s a family tradition.”
The same holds true for senior Jacob Lopez. He said his older brother was in it when he was a senior.
“It’s such a long tradition,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of pride and a lot of work in it. My cousins and younger aunts wound in it. They enjoyed themselves.”
Mark Van Nieuwkoop is experiencing the event for the first time in his life. Van Nieuwkoop is an exchange student from the Netherlands. He said in the Netherlands there wasn’t a prom or a big celebration for graduation and certainly not a Maypole.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Van Nieuwkoop said about Maypole. “I’ve been able to relax with my friends. This is our last week together.”
The family tradition is something mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers can recall from their days at Portales High School. Whitney Lovato said her mother, Angela Lovato, and her grandmother, Elizabeth Martin were in the Maypole.
“My mom did it and my grandmother did it,” Lovato said. “When I have kids, I want them to participate in it. I enjoyed being in practices with my classmates.”