Carnival Revs Up

Thousands of students, alumni and Punahou ohana rolled up their sleeves to make “Pun Prix ’23: Pedal to the Metal” Carnival a joyous event – preparing delightful culinary staples and tending to the plethora of activity booths, where attendees could participate in everything from face painting to fishing for rubber duckies. The Skills and Games Division consisted of 19 game booths, including the SplatTrap and Prize Exchange. 

By Rachel Breitweser ’03
With reporting by Greta Conlon ’24

The Junior Class of 2024 paved the way for a victorious Carnival – Pun Prix ’23: Pedal to the Metal. Open to the public at large for the first time since 2020, the big event was held the first Friday and Saturday of February, and featured a grand prix race-theme, which was highlighted in the Carnival fabric and in booths with names such as “Van Go” Art Gallery, “Miles Per Malasada” and “H-2 Haku.”

Of course, it’s a fun time for all, but the heart of Carnival is a good cause – to support the nearly 850 students at Punahou who benefit from the School’s need-based financial aid program. This year’s Carnival was a success, with the fundraiser bringing in dollars on par with pre-pandemic numbers. “The hours flipping teri-burgers, the smell of malasadas in your hair for days post Carnival, the ache in your arm from scooping Portuguese bean soup is all worth it if it helps raise funds to allow a student to attend Punahou,” said Carnival Coordinator Taryn Yano ’99 Kabei. The tradition of Carnival dates back to 1932. 

Despite a downpour that delayed the Saturday start time by an hour, this year’s Carnival was not to be detoured, especially with a tenacious “pit crew” comprised of Punahou staff and 4,500 volunteers, from students and parents to faculty and alumni.

Nearly 60 booths offered the beloved Carnival highlights and some new ones. Malasadas, teri-burgers, gyros, Portuguese bean soup and more were on the menu, alongside sweet treats served at the new Sugar Rush booth. About 12,000 jars of famous mango chutney and liliko‘i butter raced off the shelves. Along with collecting over 7,000 pounds of donated sugar for Carnival’s famous malasadas, the Carnival Food Division team collected and donated nearly 450 pounds of rice to The Pantry for families in need. 

About 20 Skills and Games booths, such as Kiddie Basketball, Menehune Strongman and Mini Golf added to the excitement of Carnival, along with fun prizes selected by students. Although there were no thrill rides this year, E.K. Fernandez kiddie rides – including Jungle Twist, Carousel, Dizzy Dragon, SuperSlide and Lolli Swings – offered fun for the whole family. 

Art Gallery once again welcomed the public to its in-person gallery, the largest art show in the State, which featured over 1,000 works by 220 Hawai‘i leading artists and kicked off with a pre-Carnival online jewelry sale. The White Elephant booth boasted an array of second-hand clothing, housewares and treasures that were collected over the summer, totaling several thousand pounds of donations. Meanwhile, the Silent Auction featured show tickets, relaxing spa treatments and more for Carnival-goers, and for lively online biding.

Carnival would not be complete without the zany, creative senior tradition of Variety Show, which runs in Dillingham Hall. The Class of 2023 served up “Bread: The Variety Show” for a total of over 2,000 audience members. The original performance was filled with student-choreographed dance numbers, student-written music performed live, and of course, bread puns! The student music production team also recorded the original songs over winter break with 40 classmates. Search “Variety Show 2023 Bread Soundtrack” on Spotify to take a listen. 

The Junior Class was undoubtedly excited to bring the Carnival to the wider community. “It was interesting to see how Carnival changed over the pandemic, but I was very excited that it was open to the public again,” said Administrative Division student head Crystina Young ’24, who added that this year, more juniors signed up to be booth chairs than in previous years. 

“I am really proud of how the Junior Class came together. This is a testament to the excitement we all felt to be able to bring back this tradition to the community. Some of my fondest memories are from attending Punahou Carnival when I was younger, and I was grateful and excited that I could be a part of creating a memorable Carnival experience for others.”

Carnival drew thousands of attendees for fun, but also to support a good cause. Proceeds from the event help the nearly 850 students who benefit from Punahou’s need-based financial aid program.

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