Punahou welcomed the community to its shores for the Punahou Carnival, hosted by the Junior Class of 2025, for two stunning sunny days of fun. This year’s theme, “Explore the Shore ’24,” infused the event with beach and ocean vibes, from creatively named booths to themed carnival fabric. 

Taking place on Feb. 2 and 3, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the Punahou Carnival was a great success – with support from more than 4,000 volunteers. Special touches for this year included a student-designed Tyvek bag inspired by the “Aloha Collection,” the return of the Sweet Treats booth, guava jelly, the comeback of favorite rides and games, including E.K. Fernandez’s thrill ride, Zero Gravity, and a Carnival app by the Computer Science Club. 

Seniors captivated audiences with their “24,000 Leagues Under the Sea” Variety Show, demonstrating skills in writing, design, costume, set construction, choreography and stage management. They also decorated the set with personal messages on paper fish, creating an ocean of memories. A successful sugar drive for malasadas and a rice drive in support of Maui relief efforts underscored the community’s generous spirit.

The Art Gallery featured a pre-Carnival online jewelry sale and showcased over 1,000 pieces by 220 local artists in the Bishop Learning Center. The Silent Auction offered quality products and Punahou memorabilia, while the White Elephant presented a treasure trove of goods collected through donations.

The Carnival supports Punahou’s financial aid program, benefiting nearly nearly 900 students.

With reporting by Rachel Breitweser ’03, Sienna Estes ’25 and Mehana Stone ’25. Photos by Kathleen Connelly.

Per tradition, Carnival organizers gather to formally kick off the festivities – expressing sentiments of excitement and gratitude, as they prepare for two full days of teamwork and fun. It is a monumental undertaking for the Junior Class – and thousands of volunteers ­– but along the way they create memories and bonds that last a lifetime.

Marcia Barrett ’74 Wright, food service director, bids farewell after 35 years of culinary adventures at Carnival


Carnival is synonymous with food – no matter how you slice it. Since its inception in 1932, people have braved the elements and the crowds to savor their favorite foods; whether it is a sugary malasada, a helping of smokey Portuguese bean soup or a cup of tangy chili. Epicureans are willing to wait in line for, well … as long as it takes. Food Services Director Marcia Barrett ’74 Wright has been at the epicenter of this foodies’ feast for more than three decades. “The smells of the food, the rides and the kids screaming are some of the things I enjoy the most about this special time of the year,” says Wright, who worked her first Carnival in 1990. “It is like Christmas and being in Las Vegas at the same time.” She took a stroll down memory lane to reminisce about her time at Carnival.

What intimidated you most about Carnival when you first started working?

The enormity of it! I had volunteered at Carnival as a junior, just working in one of the booths – but really had no clue what the behind-the-scenes entailed or what a big job it was. For me, as a student, Carnival just happened. But once I started in a work capacity, I sure woke up to the fact that Carnival does not just happen; it takes a lot of work and a lot of people.

What culinary challenge stands out in your mind?  

There have been many. My first task for Carnival 1990 was to find a replacement for the Korean Plate booth. I thought: oh wow – how am I going to pull this off? But with the help of my managers, we came up with the plate lunch booth which became the chicken plate. It was well received.

Carnival has evolved since you started working it – what has been the biggest change?

The pandemic triggered the biggest changes. When we finally came back to a full, in-person Carnival, many of our traditional vendors had either closed, downsized or just did not do the same things as before COVID-19. One example is Koala Moa, which was instrumental for our chicken plate. They would bring in some 7,000 chickens and cook them in their rotisserie up on the track and then the chicken would be held in the cafeteria. Another example is Okuhara Saimin, which closed its doors. They were a big part of the saimin booth. The owner would donate his trailer so we could hold the saimin properly and his cooker for the saimin base to always keep it hot. Carnival will always be something special – but it definitely has a new look now.

What is your proudest Carnival moment?

I am proud of every moment! There are a lot of problems that need to be solved and being able to find logistical solutions makes me feel like I am conquering the world. I have always prided myself in making sure the booths stay open till closing – or close to closing – of Carnival. To keep booths open as late as possible, we often have to improvise. One year the taco salad booth was in danger of closing really early because we were running out of tortilla chips, which are the base for many of its dishes. This was Saturday, late in the afternoon, and there was no way could we get an order delivered. I was thinking of what we could do and saw Nacho Dorito chips in our snack bar, I thought that would work – and it did! In the post-Carnival meeting, folks asked whether we could use Nacho Dorito chips for the next year because everyone had loved them. I was definitely a happy camper.

What life lessons has Carnival imparted?

A lot! It has taught me how to work with a vast number of people of all ages and it has taught me to appreciate the amount of work everyone undertakes to make Carnival successful. 

It has taught me that you cannot please everyone and that it’s not all about you: it takes a village not a single person. You can’t always get what you want! So you have to improvise and compromise. No matter how hard something appears, do not give up. Keep finding ways to do it and the light at the end of that long tunnel will appear. In my early years and even today, 35 years later, there is no shame in not knowing – there is a vast number of people who can help you, so utilize them.

What will you miss most about Carnival?

My staff, the volunteers and the students that I work with to make this all happen. It doesn’t happen because of me – it is all of us working together to make the magic at Carnival happen!

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