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Shepherdstown Tree City USA celebration commemorates Arbor Day, May Day

By Staff | May 10, 2019

Dancers begin the Maypole Dance by McMurran Hall on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Gathering around a Purpleleaf Plum Tree from the West Virginia Division of Forestry, community members celebrated Shepherdstown’s continued designation as a Tree City USA by McMurran Hall on Saturday afternoon.

Honoring Arbor Day, the celebration featured representatives of the U.S. Forest Service, pronouncing the designation, and Mayor Jim Auxer, who read a new tree poem written by Wendy Maddox. The ceremony was followed by Shepherdstown’s May Day celebration, which was shortened this year to a performance of the Maypole Dance.

“This will be the 13th year in a row Shepherdstown will be a Tree City USA,” Auxer said, mentioning the Arbor Day and May Day celebrations have always been held in conjunction with each other. “We pride ourselves on taking care of those trees. We do everything we can to promote the protection of our environment.”

According to Auxer, the Purpleleaf Plum Tree was one of a number of trees given by the WVDF.

“They give us a tree every year,” Auxer said, mentioning the trees are planted to help Shepherdstown keep its designation, maintain its beauty and become a comfortable place for residents to enjoy the outdoors.

A Purpleleaf Plum Tree was given by the West Virginia Division of Forestry to the Corporation of Shepherdstown, to honor its designation as a Tree City USA. The tree will be planted near the Rumsey Monument this week. Tabitha Johnston

Maintaining the Tree City USA designation is left up to Public Works Director Frank Welch, who turns in the paper work every year. Welch said this year’s tree will be placed in a strategic location.

“We’ll probably put this at the Rumsey Monument, where there’s still some open area. We could use some shade out there,” Welch said. “We’ll get that done next week.”

As a member of the town’s Tree Commission Welch works alongside fellow members James Dillon, Carrie Dreary and Chair Lori Roberts.

“We have a really great Tree Commission, we get a lot of work done. We’re all volunteers,” Roberts said, mentioning the commission makes sure Shepherdstown’s trees are cared for. “Since its a commission rather than a committee, the Tree Commission allows us to access to grants, so if we wanted to get a grant to treat our ash trees, we can do that on our own. There are people in town with trees growing onto their homes, and they can fill out an application for us to get it pruned. Other people who need advice on their trees come to our meetings to ask us questions.”

After the Arbor Day and Tree City USA ceremony, ladies in white spun around the maypole, performing the Maypole Dance. Led by dance instructor Laura First, the dancing celebrated the coming of spring.

Anne, a nine-year-old toy poodle decked out in a flower wreath, looks at the finished maypole by McMurran Hall on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

“This is a tradition we need to hold onto. This is a town that’s full of folklorists and artists and intellectuals,” First said, mentioning her dancers began practicing with her at Rumsey Monument in the beginning of April. “They have so much fun and as soon as they get done practicing, they run around singing.”

While some of the ladies in white were new to the dance, others were veteran Maypole dancers, including Shepherdstown Middle School sixth grader Lucy Meeker.

“I like that people come together here [to the May Day celebration],” Meeker said. “It’s just a day that everyone can come out and have fun.”