“It’s awesome how the junior class came together for something so special,” says junior Clare Anderson of Punahou High School’s “Wild Wild West: The Great Carnival Roundup” of 2013 on Saturday, February 2.
What began in 1932 as a fundraiser for the school’s yearbook, the Punahou “Oahuan Campus Carnival” has become one of the school’s biggest events, bringing in millions of dollars for the students’ financial aid costs.
Punahou School is a private, co-educational, college preparatory school in Honolulu. With a population of almost 4,000 students in kindergarten through the twelfth grade, it is the largest independent school in the United States.
As President Barack Obama’s alma mater, Punahou takes great pride in having educated some of America’s historical figures, such as baseball player Alexander Cartwright III, football player Mark Tuinei, writer William Ouchi, dancer and actress Carrie Ann Inaba, and General Samuel C. Armstrong.
Over the last 70 years, the carnival has evolved with more food, more rides, more donations, and more family fun. Since Hawai does not have any amusement parks with rides, the Punahou carnival is a major event for locals.
“We have to work, but at the same time, we have lots of fun,” says Anderson who worked a full day at the “Mala Saddles 4-Ewa” food booth.
Holding such a huge event of games, rides, food, entertainment, and much more, requires a great deal of work, and the junior class knew it from the time they were still sophomores.
“We started preparing for it as soon as the last one was over,” says junior Brenda Dimaya, student chair of Haku Lei Specialties and worker at the "Yeehaw Ku Lei" booth. “It’s a year-long process, and it all benefits us.”
In addition to all the students and staff working at various tasks, many parents, families, and friends supported the cause by volunteering hours and hours to make sure the carnival would uphold this prestigious tradition.
From sorting out donations for the White Elephant sales to supervising students in the kitchen, volunteers helped the carnival run smoothly, as many visitors took notice through the quick service despite long lines for food.
Even underclassmen took on great responsibility in providing quality customer service to carnival-goers. Every high school student is required to work one shift every year, according to freshman Mia Farinas who, prior to her first “job” at the "Cactus Cool Down" booth, was a carnival visitor since fourth grade.
“I like working here because I know lots of other people working in the booths,” says Farinas who kept cool while serving acai ice cream bars and hoped to find time for a ride on the Musical Xpress or Tilt-a-Whirl.
With the traditional carnival food of hot dogs, burgers, corn, and pizza, Punahou wouldn’t be a leading school without serving some of Hawaii’s local grinds such as Portuguese bean soup, malasadas, saimin, local fruit jellies, and BBQ mixed plates.
In addition to the ono grinds, the White Elephant tent provided some hard-to-find novels, music records, and nostalgic island favorites.
There was also the “Little Plants on the Prairie” tent, with some native plants and flowers, conveniently-sized to take home with ease.
A two-day event of games, rides, food, entertainment, and great deals, the “Wild Wild West: The Great Carnival Roundup” of 2013 proved to be another success for Punahou.