By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
This year's Carnival fabric reflects the '70s theme, Back in
the Groove. Volunteers (from back) Donna Tanimura, Michelle
Young and Jessica Isawa paint the grab-bag booth in
a complementary flower-power design.
D-day for the
It takes an army of volunteersBy Betty Shimabukuro
to make this annual
The U.S. Army has nothing on the ladies of the PFA. Give them loaded weapons and a few tanks and these women could invade a small nation. Instead, they put their formidable organizational, troop-gathering skills to work on Carnival.
Not the carnival, not the Punahou Carnival. Just Carnival. Like the big one in Rio.
To have a child at Punahou is to take your place among the army of 4,000 or so volunteers at Carnival. You will fry malassadas, sell scrip, drive food trucks, make sure no one cheats at ring toss -- for all the years of your child's school career.
Leading you into the fray will be the ladies of the PFA, Punahou's Parent-Faculty Association (successor to the old PTA). Take a look at the flow chart. At the top, an overall chairwoman. Below her, 10 division heads. Below them, 463 booth and committee chairs. There are dads among the generals in this operation, but mostly it's a mom thing.
"The pool of non-working mothers is small -- very small," says Phyllis Lee, co-chairwoman of the committee that distributes jobs to parents. "We are sought after, not necessarily because of our personalities, but because we have the time and hours to put in."
Dads are, however, among the soldier ants for the two-day event, which takes place tomorrow and Saturday.
Parents are "strongly encouraged" to volunteer, says Lee's co-chair, Manya Levin, but there are no repercussions for those who don't. "It's not mandated; it's always a volunteer function."
As of early this week, 3,960 adults had signed up -- which averages out to more than one for each of the 3,005 families that have kids at Punahou. Not all the volunteers are parents, though, many are alumni.
Massing the troopsLevin says most parents are happy to do their part and enjoy the camaraderie of booth work.
Which is good, because there are a lot of booths to fill. Malassadas is the most labor-intensive, requiring 480 workers through 10 shifts. For the haku lei booth, 321. Body painting, 182. All the way down to ring toss, eight. Also needed: 44 van drivers and 100 food dispatchers.
It was up to Levin and Lee to match volunteers with positions, a mammoth task. It went like this:
In September, forms were mailed out, asking parents to indicate when and where they'd prefer to work. Those who didn't respond were sent a second form in October. Forty-two parents hand-delivered their completed forms to the PFA office on the very first day, Levin said, hoping to guarantee their preferences.
The top choices? Hard to say. Some people like to sit in the shade selling scrip, some prefer a fast-paced food booth, like noodles, where time passes quickly. A lot of people hate the malassada booth, Levin says, because it involves hot oil and leaves you smelling like the product. Others, especially alumni, love it and volunteer in groups so that their shifts become mini-class reunions.
Anyway, each parent's name was entered into a computer and numbered according to date of response. First in, first choice of assignments. No favors, Lee says, although allowances were made for special circumstances (bad knee, must be able to sit ... prone to migraines, needs low light ...).
Thousands of names were filled by hand into thousands of slots. "It's a combination of personal communication, hand work, computer work and tons of telephone calls," Levin said.
Some reshuffling is done for parents unhappy with their assignments (vegetarian, can't cook hamburgers) and during two days of Carnival, Levin and Lee will dispatch stand-by workers to cover for no-shows (sickness, emergencies, can't find a parking space).
"Lots of husbands of chairwomen are on standby," Lee says.
Levin estimates she's put in up to five hours a day, four days a week, on Carnival business, since September. She's up to seven hours daily since the pace picked up in January. After this weekend, there will be cleanup work. And a few committees, such as the jam- and jelly-makers, will work through the summer.
For all this parental involvement, though, students are technically in charge of Carnival. All high school students are required to work at least one three-hour shift, or suffer demerits. The junior class sponsors the event each year and must come up with booth and committee chairs to match the adults. Junior parents head the adult committees, after serving a training year when their kids were sophomores.
But the students are the bosses "with us overseeing to just sort of guide them," says Pat Gamble, last year's overall chairwoman. "As much as possible we give them the opportunity to take responsibility."
This is the bottom line at Carnival, more important, organizers say, than the financial bottom line.
Learning opportunity for kidsMyron Arakawa, a counselor at Punahou, says he's seen how the experience pays dividends for juniors, especially those who are not the usual class leaders.
"I see a lot of dedication on the kids' part," Arakawa says. "I see them given a lot of responsibility, good leadership being developed, learning to reach consensus in a group."
Not to mention, Carnival grosses about $1.2 million in just two days, a great launching point for junior pride.
Arakawa is an example of Carnival life come full-circle. Not only is he on the faculty, he has a daughter at Punahou, and he is a graduate, class of '66. Since 1979, when his first child entered kindergarten, he's been a parent volunteer (first year, goldfish booth). For 10 years he has worked with his graduating class in malassadas. His wife, Ellen, co-chairs the haku lei booth this year. Thirty years ago his own parents were Carnival volunteers.
"Back when I was a student, it was the largest event in school, something everyone looked forward to," he says. "Volunteering as an alumnus is a way of giving back to the school."
Punahou CarnivalDates: Tomorrow and Saturday
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
Place: Punahou School