Maypole has symbolized rite of passage for seniors at PHS for 85 years

The bright, colorful dresses, the inspirational songs, the flashes from hundreds of cameras and the poles that stand as strong as the community's tradition are what keep Portales High School's Maypole ceremonies going.

Maypole Director Wendy Brooks said every year it's a different group of students, with different talents and different formal wear, but one thing that is consistent is the heart of the 85-year tradition.

Joshua Lucero: PNT correspondent

Portales seniors Marshall Chavez, right, and partner Emily Benavidez rehearse the Maypole dance Wednesday night at Ram Athletic Center.

"It's all about tradition, it's about people who want to keep it going," said Brooks during a break in dress rehersal Wednesday night. "People want to see their kids and their grandkids do it."

The maypole ceremony is 8 p.m. today..

Maypole is a tradition that originated from European countries in the 16th century that was brought to Portales in 1929 by Varnell McCall and symbolizes a rites of passage ceremony for high school seniors, according to parents.

Here's a look at numbers that connect this year's students to the tradition:

1 Davonica Lucero is the first person in her family to participate in Maypole.

Lucero said her parents and older sister declined to participate .

"I did it because everyone said it's fun and I wanted to wear this big dress," Lucero said.

Lucero's career goal is to become an occupational therapist.

2 Partners Makenzie Banister had considered for Maypole.

Banister said her first pick for a partner was selected in sixth grade but it never worked out because they didn't like each other anymore. She feels she made the right choice in fellow senior Vance Peterson the second time around.

"He' a goofball," Banister said. "I've had so much fun; I just like everyone getting together."

Banister plans to move to Massachusetts after graduation to be with her mother and attend cosmetology school.

4 New friends Thurston Herrera made through attending Maypole practices.

Herrera is a native of Floyd, so he said he actually has never heard of Maypole.

Coming to PHS for his last year in high school, he was happy to make what he considers life-long friendships.

"I liked just meeting a bunch of new people and hanging out with them every Monday and Thursday," Herrera said.

Herrera wants to work through the summer so he can save money to attend Eastern New Mexico University.

7 Times Andrew Olivas thinks they have been yelled at in rehearsal for too much chatter.

Olivas said his favorite part of Maypole is their entrance "because the crowd gets to look at everybody individually."

Olivas wants to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation.

10 Websites Briana Montoya visited before finding the perfect dress.

Montoya said the dress is one of the most important parts of her participation in the ceremony and she wanted to make sure she picked the right one.

"I wanted a big dress," Montoya said. "It's turquoise, one of my favorite colors."

Montoya plans to attend Clovis Community College in the fall to study radiology.

She said Maypole is an opportunity for her family to come together and celebrate her growth.

"I have a lot of family coming out," Montoya said. "They're happy that I'm graduating and that I made it this far."

76 Steps Corey Vandenberg says is in the box step dance.

Vandenberg said the dances were easy for him to learn because he likes to two-step and swing dance.

"I was showing the other guys up," Vandenberg joked.

He said he loved that Maypole gave him a chance to see his fellow seniors one more time before they walk the stage.

"I loved actually seeing everybody together for once, you hardly see anyone your senior year," Vandenberg said.

He's considering attending ENMU or New Mexico State University to study engineering.

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