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Inside Punahou Carnival 2020

Many people who go to the Punahou Carnival today have no idea of all the work that goes into putting on this annual event. And, of all the high school carnivals, this one has outlasted almost all of them.

The Punahou Carnival started its tradition in 1932 to raise funds for the yearbook, with carnival food and games. They made $240 that year. In 1936, the school introduced rides to the offerings.

Volunteers at the teri burger tent, including my friend Lianne Bidal Thompson (left).

Today, it’s a huge undertaking, with 4,500 volunteers manning an event comprised of rides, food, games, a silent auction, shopping, haiku lei, a variety show and more. The funds raised go to provide financial aid for students who might otherwise not be able to attend Punahou (my nieces were among them, so thank you).

Malasadas frying today at the Punahou Carnival.

The most popular item, of course, are the famous malasadas, of which they use 10,000 pounds of flour and 6,000 pounds of sugar to make 140,000 pieces of fried goodness.

Locals know, almost always rains on the weekend of Punahou Carnival. Why is it in February, if you know the weather might be dicey? Well, back in the day when I was in high school, all the schools had carnivals. But the E.K. Fernandez family, who supplies all the rides for Hawaii carnivals, are Punahou alumni. So Punahou had the right to kick off carnival season, which ran every weekend through the spring.

Mark Noguchi with his scrips for the day.

What’s your favorite food at the carnival? I always go for the teri cheeseburgers and the malasadas. Our guide, chef and faculty member Mark Noguchi, loves the Portuguese bean soup and the fried saimin. Will Chen, who’s from Boston, got a little look behind the scenes today with us. Here’s an abbreviated look at our experience!

Tip: ALL PURCHASES are made in scrips, so be sure you have enough. Whether you’re buying food or shopping for plants or white elephant items, just know that you can’t use cash for any transactions.

For me, the very best time to go to Punahou Carnival is when it opens. Yes, there are initial crowds for the scrips, but the food is freshest and you get the best pick of the plants, country store, white elephant tent, and most of all, the famous jams, jellies and mango chutney. In fact, here’s a bonus video of how the buying system works at the “Jams & Jellies” booth.

One little known element of the carnival: There’s an art gallery and a silent auction. I had no idea about the silent auction! I need to check this out! Maybe I’ll see you all on Saturday.

Punahou Carnival 2020
February 7-8
For more information, click here

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