May Day is returning to its longtime home in Queen’s Park Stadium after a two-year COVID-related hiatus.
The New Westminster May Day Community Association has announced a full, in-person May Day event will take place in Queen’s Park Stadium on the afternoon of Saturday, May 28, following the Hyack International Parade. It will include the crowning of a new May Queen and traditional maypole and folk dancing.
“We are thrilled that May Day will be returning to Queen’s Park after the long COVID hiatus,” association president Nikki Binns said in a news release. “This will be the first in-person May Day event since the festival was transitioned to our community group in 2020.”
New Westminster’s May Day event, which started in 1870, is the longest running festival of its kind in the British Commonwealth.
In April 2020, the New Westminster school district announced the cancellation of the city’s 150th May Day ceremony in Queen’s Park because of the pandemic. Previously, the school district announced it would no longer be involved in the festival after 2020.
In the past, members of the Royal Suite were selected through a two-step process that started with students at each of the schools voting for their representatives. That was followed by a random draw at city hall that determined all the schools’ positions in the Royal Suite.
With the school district no longer involved in May Day, the Royal Suite selection will now be done through a random draw. Children in grades 5 and 6 wanting to participate in the Royal Suite can now apply on the May Day association’s website.
In the past decade, a number of changes have been made to the May Day program, including giving kids a bigger role in the ceremony. The school district, which had coordinated the event for decades, made changes, such as moving instruction of the folk and maypole dances out-of-school hours, rather than during class time.
The May Day association has secured a number of locations across the city for dance instruction, which will be led by a group of volunteer instructors.
The maypole dances will be open to children in grades 4, 5 and 6 and the folk dances will be open to children in grades 2 and 3. Free maypole and folk-dance instruction will be taking place at various times and days of the week, and classes will include nine weekly sessions, with some sessions beginning March 29 and ending the week of May Day, May 28.
Details about the times and locations of dance instruction, as well as registration instructions, are available on the association’s website.
In 2018, a small group of local residents struck a committee to consider how the community could proceed with May Day, without the support of the school district.
The New Westminster May Day Community Association welcomes volunteers and sponsors to help with this year’s event. It invites interested children, parents and community members to visit its website often, subscribe to the email list, and follow the Association’s Facebook page for regular updates.
“New Westminster’s historic May Day is now an entirely volunteer-run event, and its success is dependent on broad-based, grassroots community participation,” association vice president Rocky Suffron said in a news release. “We are in urgent need of volunteers….”
In March 2020, Sienna Vahra was selected as New Westminster’s 150th May Queen and fellow FW Howay Elementary School student was chosen as the school’s Royal Consort. While the festivities in Queen’s Park Stadium were cancelled because of COVID, Sienna was crowned May Queen in a virtual, socially-distanced ceremony in the Queen’s Park rose garden.
More information can be found at www.nwmayday.com.
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