Maypole celebrates tradition

By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer

Couples who wind Maypole together sometimes end up tying the knot together.

At least two Portales High School seniors who took part in the 79th annual winding of the Maypole on Monday and Tuesday nights have close family members who wound together and shortly after, ended up being bound together, in holy matrimony.

Clint Brakebill’s grandparents, Corte and Cleta Prude, wound the Maypole at PHS in 1949 and married that year. Another PHS senior, Heather Stroud, has an aunt and uncle, Josephine and Tommy Patterson, who wound in 1942 and said “I do” shortly after.

The Maypole tradition began at PHS in 1929. Today, Portales is the only high school in the country that has performed this elaborate event for eight consecutive decades. Young girls often begin looking forward to Maypole in eighth grade and by local custom, ask boys to be their Maypole partners. Another thing that hasn’t changed is the attire — girls dressed in full-hooped, colorful gowns, and men in tuxedos.

According to Marilyn Stratton, Maypole coordinator, 40 couples wound around two Maypoles this year.

For Stroud, it’s a family tradition that will continue on, in the short-term, and perhaps even the long-term.

“I have a sister, Hannah, who will wind next year,” Stroud said. She added, “I’m starting college at ENMU for my general education requirements. If I stay in Portales, maybe my own children will wind Maypole someday.”

Stroud has had three aunts wind Maypole, in 1961, 1966 and 1998, and two uncles, one in 1956 and another in 1983. She has also had six cousins wind from 1942 to 2002.

“I just love Maypole. I think it is such a cool tradition that we have been doing for 80 years and I think it is cool to be a part of what my family has done,” said Stroud, who wound Maypole with Phillip Harrell.

Stroud’s grandmother made her lemon yellow dress with light white polkadots.

In addition to Brakebill’s grandparents, his mother, Kristy Walsh, wound Maypole in 1983 and his late half-brother, Donald Brakebill, wound in 1983. The Maypole tradition doesn’t stop there, though. Brakebill’s stepfather, Kerry Walsh, wound Maypole in 1983 and his sister, Joni Brakebill, wound in 2006. He had an aunt who wound in 1986, a cousin in 1999 and a nephew, Cole Brakebill in 2001.

“It’s pretty neat to carry on this tradition,” said Brakebill, who wound Maypole with Katherine Knudson.

According to Brakebill, the Maypole memories were created as students wound with their classmates. “There are so many people who I know I will not see for a long time. It was nice to bond with them in this way one last time.”