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Community May Day Celebration commemorates historic spring holiday

By Staff | May 11, 2018

Tabitha Johnston/Chronicle Locals and visitors dance together under the maypole during Saturday’s May Day Celebration in Rumsey Monument Park in Shepherdstown.

Bodhrans and bagpipes welcomed the coming of May during the town’s annual May Day Celebration on Saturday.

The celebration featured a variety of events related to the historic holiday, including a festive parade down German Street, Morris dancing, May Pole dancing and live music at Rumsey Monument Park.

“My mom used to make me an outfit for the May Day parade every year, with flowers and a big poofy skirt,” recalled Kari DeVault of Hagerstown, as she and her mom, Nancy, shielded themselves from the rain with an umbrella.

“This is one of the things that makes Shepherdstown so special,” said Nancy, also of Hagerstown.

Nancy said a friend, who was also a storyteller at the event, encouraged them to become involved with the celebration.

Tabitha Johnston/Chronicle Saige Kruger, 3, holds a chocolate peanut butter macaron as she smiles for the camera with sister Eadyn Kruger, 6, during Saturday’s May Day Celebration. Full story on page 3.

“We love it,” she said. “We come every year.”

Joe, of Sterling, Virginia, who requested his last name to not be published, is a member of Mason Dixon Border Morris, and has attended the event for about 21 years. During the festival, he was preparing to play his bodhran, a traditional Irish drum.

“I’ve always danced during this festival, and I will do it again-I just don’t do the May Pole,” he said. Joe also plays the whistle and performs with his wife, a fiddler, at the Maryland Renaissance Festival every year.

Shepherd graduate Michael Vowell attended the festival with his online ancient folklore and mythology discussion group, Candle and Crow.

“There aren’t many events like this around the country, especially events that celebrate the old-folk customs of spring and summer,” said Vowell, who has attended the festival many times before, but never with other members of the discussion group.

“We were looking forward to this for a long time, and I will definitely come back next year, because I enjoy the community, the customs and the special events,” Vowell said as he relaxed in his costume depicting Cernunnos, a horned Celtic god representing spring, fertility and abundance.

Shepherdstown Music and Dance board member Kay Smith attended the event to support Morris dance group Hicks with Sticks.

“What was really nice to see was how people were thrilled by the festival,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the May Day parade allows attendees to be a part of the community.

“Music and dance is really essential to being alive, and connects you with other humans,” Smith said. “Not all of us can play an instrument, but they can dance and join the May Day parade.”

Vowell said the celebration was especially important because of this season’s unusually cold weather.

“It’s such a great thing to do after the winter we’ve had, to see all the colors and the flowers,” Vowell said. “It’s a great way to usher in summer.”