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May Day festivities welcome in spring

By Staff | May 12, 2017

Depsite the rain and cool temperatures, many joined in the welcoming of spring on Saturday with the annual May Day celebration in Shepherdstown.

Hosted by the Shepherdstown Mirris and Shepherdstown Music and Dance, the traditional British May Celebration featured music, dance and the traditional parade.

Those who braved the rain were treated to music and dance from the Shepherdstown Morris Dancers, who have been an established group since 1989. The group, which practices weekly at the Shepherdstown Train Station, travels to events all over the U.S., Canada and England.

Morris dance is a form of English folk dance, accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and choreography by the dancers who usually wear bell pads on their shins. The dancers carry sticks, swords and/or hankerchiefs that are incorporated into the music and dance steps.

The earliest known and surviving written mention of Morris dance dates back to 1448.

The parade down German Street, though small, was filled with revelry as the dancers performed and young maidens carried a small Maypole. Mayor Jim Auxer greeted townsfolk as he helped lead the processional toward McMurran lawn where the maypole was constructed.

A poem by Wedny Maddox was shared by Auxer as festivities began on the lawn. Some dances were taught to those who wished to gather around the maypole and others were performed by visiting groups of professionals.

The Morris Dancers wove the ribbons around the maypole as onlookers watched the intricate pattern emerge.

Historical trivia records that the tallest maypole is said to have been erected in London on the Strand in 1661; it stood over 143 feet high. It was felled in 1717, when it was used by Isaac Newton to support Huygen’s new reflecting telescope.

While not as high as the London pole, Shepherdstown’s maypole proved just as beautiful, as was a smaller pole where the young maidens from the parade worked their magic in weaving the ribbons to welcome spring.