With dance and maypole, Shepherdstown welcomes spring

May 02, 2002|BY KATE COLEMAN

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - "Spring makes you feel so good you want to celebrate," says Joanie Blanton, an organizer of this weekend's May Festival activities.

And a celebration of the coming of spring is what will be happening Saturday in Shepherdstown.

Spring festivals have been around for centuries in many cultures. May Day is so ancient that nobody - not even scholars - knows its roots, says Laura First of Keedysville. Blanton says First was the inspiration for the Shepherdstown event.

Blanton and First are members of Shepherdstown Northwest Clog Morris, a dance team which performs folk dances in the style of the region of England between Sheffield and Liverpool. The team, formed in 1990, has organized a May Day parade and celebration - complete with the wrapping of a maypole - since 1995. The dancing, flowers and maypole are traditions based in English celebration, but joy at the arrival of the season is universal.


First says she will be out before sunrise Saturday, gathering flowers, making wreaths for the celebration.

Morris dancers will begin May Festival events at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning on the lawn at Shepherd College's McMurran lawn. A parade will begin in town at noon, proceeding through downtown Shepherdstown on German Street.

The parade will process to Rumsey Monument Park on the Potomac River where a maypole will be wrapped and several morris teams representing different traditions will dance. The 26-foot maple maypole will be wrapped in purple and green ribbons, the colors of Shepherdstown Northwest Clog Morris dance team.

Hicks with Sticks, a local morris dance team, will perform, as well as teams from Baltimore, Charlottesville, Va., and Richmond, Va.

Dancer-choreographer Kitty Clark of Shepherdstown will perform a "representational dance" at the park. The celebration will include women of three generations of one family - a 2-year-old and her mother and grandmother, who is visiting from India.

And the air will explode in bells, ribbons and hankies, First says.

"It's just a lovely celebration of the coming of summer," she says.

First doesn't want people to be discouraged if the weather forecast isn't perfect. "It always rains in the morning, and it always gets sunny," she says.

There will be no food vendors, but people can bring a picnic lunch.

And the best part is, "It's absolutely free," First says.

Just like the arrival of spring.

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