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May Day Festival, organizers serious about 'going green'

Shepherdstown, W.Va., celebrationto feature 'Green Man,' 'Green Woman'

Shepherdstown, W.Va., celebrationto feature 'Green Man,' 'Green Woman'

May 02, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Organizers say part of the appeal of the Shepherdstown May Day Festival, a parade and celebration of spring, comes from what won't be there.

Motorized floats detract from the organic vibe. So do amps - all the live music is acoustic.

Don't expect many vendors. Too much commercialism is a distraction.

This daylong May Day celebration is all about what the crowd brings - picnic hampers, costumes and musical instruments.

Shepherdstown May Day Festival is set for Saturday, May 3, in downtown Shepherdstown. The celebration is steeped in Old English and Celtic traditions, said organizer and founder Laura First, a self-described enthusiast of ancient customs.

A Maypole ceremony, medieval dancing and other performances are planned throughout the day. First said it's become tradition for families to picnic and listen to live music afterward. She said the event attracts an average of 1,000 people a year.


Globally, people use the first of May to laud the coming of spring and, more recently, to honor workers. May 1, 1886, marks the day U.S. labor groups launched a national strike rallying for an eight-hour work day.

First said that while the organizational structure of the Shepherdstown celebration is intentionally low key - with few if any vendors and whomever-comes-comes parade participation - the crowd is anything but.

This is especially seen in the costumes people show up in, said Cheryl Mansley, a former participant and an organizer this year.

First said festival-goers are encouraged to wear anything that represents light, nature and positivity. Dark colors and costumes that evoke negativity are frowned upon.

Mansley said she's seen men dressed as horses - purple, pink and cream-colored horses. There also was much flower wearing and donning other things from nature.

"It almost gives you the opportunity as an adult to play dress-up," Mansley said.

Which brings us to the Green Man.

First said the Green Man is a symbol of spring, rebirth and eternal life.

At the celebration, the Green Man is the guy with leaves coming out his mouth. In fact, his entire body will be covered in greenery.

The legend of Robin Hood likely stems from the legend of the Green Man, First said.

This year,the Green Man will have company, a festival first. He'll be joined by the Green Woman - Mansley. Their costumes will give a new meaning to the term "going green." Mansley said she might carry a basket of birdseed and flowers.

"I'll be the goddess of spring - the Green Lady," Mansley said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Shepherdstown May Day Festival

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, May 3.

WHERE: Downtown Shepherdstown, W.Va.

· The parade will go down German Street, from Church to Princess Streets.

· Post parade activities -The Maypole ceremony and live performances - will be on the lawn in front of Shepherd University's McMurran Hall.

COST: Free

MORE: For more information, e-mail organizer Laura First,

Event schedule

· 10:30 a.m.- A scavenger hunt for the Golden Arrow, a symbol of the first ray of sunlight that emerges May 1. Starts at the Wings of Dreams gift shop on German Street.

· 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. - Live music by Don Oehser, The Corsettes, Todd Coyle on the steps of Shepherd University's McMurran Hall

· 11:30 a.m. - Parade lineup begins at Church and German streets

· Noon to 12:30 p.m. - Parade down German Street

· 12:30 p.m. - Maypole celebration at the lawn in front McMurran Hall shortly after the parade

· 1:15 p.m. - Poets Ethan Fischer and Ed Zahniser will read poetry. A storyteller will lead children's stories.

· 3 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. - Morris Stand, a traditional English dance, will be performed near McMurran Hall.

Street closings

The following streets in downtown Shepherdstown, W.Va., will be closed for the festival:

· Church Street, from New Street to German Street. 9:30 a.m. to noon

· German Street, from Church Street to Princess Street, 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

· King Street, from German Street to High Street, 4 to 5 p.m.

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