A winding tradition

Pink and blue streamers, tuxedoes and hoop skirts, and continuing a tradition.

A group of Portales High School seniors had those things on their minds Saturday as they decorated for Maypole.

The tradition has existed since 1929, and many participants have family members who have wound the Maypole in past years.

Students, who must be seniors with at least a 2.0 GPA, dance to wind cloth streamers around Maypoles and then waltz with their partners. The girls wear gowns with hoop skirts and gloves, and the boys rent tuxedos.

Maypole co-director Tamara Price said 36 couples, the queen the seniors elected, one attendant and an usher are participating this year.

The queen, Jessica McCombs, chose pink and blue as the Maypole colors because they’re her favorites. She said part of her reason for running was that her family isn’t from the Portales area.

“And the (New Mexico) Baptist Children’s Home, they’ve never had anyone run, so I wanted to be the first to make a difference,” McCombs said.

Students have been rehearsing for four to five hours a week since two or three weeks before spring break, she said. McCombs said the dancers have improved to the point that the Maypoles look perfect after they’re done winding.

Seniors must attend the practices to participate.

Dancer Toni Key said the girls started practice before the boys, learning the steps to teach to their partners.

“I just hope everything works out really well and it’s pretty and a good memory,” she said.

Key was also worried about whether the dresses would work out well. Nonetheless, she encouraged the community to come watch and support the Maypole seniors.

Maypole participant Kacy Vigil said he knew how to dance before his partner taught him.

“I just thought it would be a fun thing to do with my friends, spend time with them before we all disperse,” he said.

In addition to the dance, Price said Maypole would include quite a few musical numbers, some student-written and all performed by students.

As for decorations, Araceli Vicuna and Leah Smith have been making flowers for weeks, and they and a larger group started decorating the PHS gym Saturday.

Vicuna and Smith don’t plan to wind the Maypole, but wanted to contribute. Vicuna said her partner had to drop out of Maypole practice because of his job, and Smith said she wasn’t interested in winding but wanted to be on the inside of the event because she hadn’t heard of Maypole before she moved to Portales.

Senior Amber Edwards said Maypole is fun and unique.

“It’s a really good tradition that we have here, because we’re one of the few schools in the nations that does it,” she said, adding that it’s also a tradition in her family because her sister wound in 2009.

Price wound the Maypole herself and is one of the only, if not the only, Maypole director who has done so.

“It brings back memories,” she said. “I think as a child, I took for granted the amount of work the directors put into it, definitely.”