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May Day events set in Shepherdstown

By Staff | Apr 16, 2010

Dancing ‘Round the Maypole in Shepherdstown

Throughout the world on the first of May, people celebrate the coming of summer with revelry to wake up the earth from it’s winter slumber and induce it to fertility by singing, dancing, waving ribbons or hankies, clashing sticks, carrying wands or garlands of green and the ringing of bells. In Shepherdstown, the May will be celebrated on Saturday, May 1 with activities originating from some of the traditional British May customs. All are invited to celebrate with music, dancing and such revelry as will occur.

Morris Dance performances start at dawn at Rumsey Monument where the pole will be set up after the sun rises. Those who are curious can watch for the revelry about town, as dancers from far and wide gather and get ready for the noonday celebration. There will be a performance on the McMurran Bricks at 10:30 a.m. before all line up for the parade.

At 11:30 a.m. groups will line up for the processional parade on the corner of Church and German Streets. All are encouraged to take part in the parade. Mothers and daughters are encouraged to parade together in colorful spring finery. Floats, decorated strollers, wagons or bicycles are also welcome. Civic groups can display festive banners, craftsmen and farmers carry their tools, any who wish can bring boughs of green or young saplings and be part of the “walking forest!” Join with musicians, morris dancers and merry revelers as they play the traditional tune Winster Processional and the morris dancers dance down the street with sticks, garlands, swords, bells and waving hankies. Maypoles, wands, costumes, and garlands of greenery and flowers are highly recommended for all participants.

The parade starts down German Street at noon and proceeds to the 22-foot-tall maypole which has been erected at the Rumsey Monument Park overlooking the Potomac River. There will be a short ceremony featuring music, dance, pageantry and perhaps a mummers play and culminate in the dance which wraps the maypole. Performers include the Shepherdstown Morris Minors, Charm City Rapper Sword Dancers from Baltimore, the Albemarle Morris Men of Charlottesville, More or Less Morris from Richmond and our special guest team of 20 Northwest Morris dancers and 8 musicians from Colchester (Essex), UK, the Bows n’ Belles and our own local morris dance groups, the Shepherdstown Northwest Morris and the Hicks with Sticks Border Morris. There will be appearances by local dignitaries, the green man, the Padstow Hobby horse and other mystical creatures.

On going morris dance will happen throughout the afternoon, including a performance on the patio at the Bavarian Inn at 3:30 p.m. (where audience members can watch with a brew in hand, in the typical English style), and culminating in a final performance on King Street at 5 PM, which will feature show dances by each of the visiting groups hosted by our home teams.

In the evening, Shepherdstown Music and Dance will host their monthly contra dance at the Shepherdstown War Memorial Building on the corner of King and German Streeets, with music by KGB, a dance band from Seattle, Washington . The band features Claude Ginsburg on concertina, fiddle and viola, Dave Bartly on guitar, mandolin, cittern and more, and Julia King on piano. Woody Lane, a fine dance caller from southern Oregon will be our caller for the evening. He will be calling and teaching a wide variety of dances all done in easy, walking steps. There will be a free beginners workshop at 7:30 p.m., and the dance starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 members, $5 for dancing kids under age 12. Beginners are advised to wear loose, comfortable clothing and clean, soft-soled shoes to protect our dance floor.

On Sunday, the dancers will tour the surrounding area, starting at the Shepherdtown Farmers Market. The schedule, when formalized, will be published on the Shepherdstown May Day web page at www.smad.us/mayday.

For more information see the Shepherdstown Music and Dance web page at www.smad.us or call Joanie Blanton at (304) 263-2531 or email updf@earthlink.net. Photos of the Maypole, Morris Dancing and the parade are available on the web page or by request.