May Day in Bandon
by Jim Proehl
May Day is not widely celebrated in Bandon any more, but the museum has a trove of information about May Day celebrations in the past. They were huge. May Day pageants were especially elaborate during the 1920s. The Western World reported that more than 400 children performed in a 1925 pageant attended by an estimated 2,000 people.
Every grade school class had a role in the pageant and was fully costumed. High school students made up the May Day court and played lead roles in the pageant. Delores Lamson was Queen of the May in 1926 and reigned over “Ye Old Tyme English May Pageant” in City Park.
The 1926 celebration is especially well documented at the museum. The Wrenshall studio carefully photographed each group of performers and the program of the day’s events is in our archives.
The program includes a synopsis of the pageant: This is an excerpt from Act III: “Joyful mortals ever celebrate the advent of Spring. The Queen of Woodlands, escorted by her retinue of ladies in waiting, blithely walk their way through the verdant meads and meadows. Upon seeing the splendor of the flowers, one and all are reminded that it is May Day. Soon a garland crown is fashioned but before it is placed, a roving band of gypsies abduct the woodland queen. Sorrow reigns.”
Sorrow was represented by Helen May Baird doing an interpretive dance as the Spirit of Grief. Fortunately, the story does not end there. According to the Western World, the pageant lasted about two and a half hours.
May Day celebrations ended with the winding of the Maypole, or multiple Maypoles in some of our pictures.
Bandon is not the only community that celebrated May Day. May Day celebrations took place all over America in earlier times. What happened to May Day as a major holiday? Perhaps greeting card companies decided to shift the emphasis in May to Mother’s Day. Perhaps the fact that communist countries chose May first as the day to celebrate world communism put a chill on May Day in the United Sates during the cold war era.
Bandon’s Parks and Recreation has recently added an amphitheater and other features to the city park that will make it a better outdoor performance venue. Perhaps new occasions will emerge to draw crowds in the thousands to performances in the park.