Skip to content

New Westminster celebrates May Days past and present

Royal Lancers dance tradition carries on in new event

The Royal Lancers and May Queen Suites aren’t ready to retire their dancing shoes just yet.

More than 300 people attended the inaugural community heritage picnic at the Royal Westminster Regiment armoury on Sunday. The Royal Lancers’ dances with members of the May Queen suites were one of the day’s highlights.

“It was fantastic,” said Karen Baker-MacGrotty, who spearheaded the event with her husband David MacGrotty. “Absolutely unbelievable – the joy in the children’s faces. Everyone was enjoying a great afternoon, old and young alike. It was wonderful.”

Baker-MacGrotty said the event was a wonderful finale to May Day week and Hyack Festival week in New Westminster.

The event included a PowerPoint presentation about the history of May Day, a display of memorabilia and photos, an honour guard and face painting for the kids. Boys serving as Royal Knights read out trivia, while girls in the 2014 and 2015 May Queen Suites danced four quadrille dances and did the traditional march-in and march-out with members of the Royal Lancers.

“We dedicated the dances in honour of Queen Victoria. It was her actual birthday.” Baker-MacGrotty said. “That was very cool to have the event take place on her birthday, in an armoury that was built during her reign.”

The idea for the picnic arose out of city council’s decision to cancel the Royal Lancers’ dances with the May Queen suites from the 2015 May Day banquet. Instead of letting the longstanding tradition fade into history, supporters of the dances and New Westminster’s May Day traditions rallied together to organize a free community event.

“If we hadn’t done the dance, it would have been lost forever,” Baker-MacGrotty said. “Lo and behold, we had 16 men and 16 May Queen suite members dance. We need to keep that tradition.”

Kathie (Gifford) Glassie, the city’s 1975 May Queen, served as the event’s MC.

“It went so beyond what I expected,” she told the Record. “It was amazing. It was so much fun.”

While volunteers made sandwiches and veggie trays for the kids, guests brought a bounty of food to the picnic.

“It was a smorgasbord,” Baker-MacGrotty said of the afternoon picnic at the Armoury. “It was one big feast. We had families sitting with other families. Everybody was mixing and mingling.”

Baker-MacGrotty said organizers had less than a month to plan the free event and were pleased with the outcome.

“It was cheap and cheerful, but it also had pomp and ceremony fitting of the day,” she said. “It was wonderful.”

Based on the success of this year’s event – and the desire to keep the Royal Lancers’ tradition alive – organizers plan to offer the event in the years to come.

“Bigger and better for next year. We will have a whole year to plan,” Baker-MacGrotty said. “People were ecstatic.”

Glassie said organizers only had about three weeks to plan the picnic and have learned some lessons for next year. She’s thrilled the lancers and May Queen suites were able to carry on the tradition of dancing the quadrille dances in honour of May Day.

“It was what everybody was there to see. We weren’t sure what was going to happen, but it was at least one last kick at the can. It was one final chance to show it,” Glassie said. “Because it went so well we are committed to keeping this little community picnic going.”

New Westminster city council eliminated the Royal Lancers’ dances from the May Day banquet in an attempt to “modernize” the event and to make it more child focused. Held on the evening of the May 20 May Day ceremony, the city’s banquet included May Pole dances by the May Queen Suite and Royal Knights, a sundae bar and a photo booth for guests.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks