UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

May Day celebrations on campus

051811NewsAndNotes_MayQueen1938UNCG Libraries’ Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives presents an exhibit of artifacts, photographs and postcards commemorating these May Day festivals. This exhibit will be on display in the Jackson Library lobby through June 15.

The exhibition’s notes provides some facts about these festivals:

  • The tradition of celebrating May Day can be traced back to the pre-Christian era when the first day of May marked the end of winter in Northern Europe. Traditions such as selecting a May queen and dancing around a May Pole decorated with flowers and ribbons were incorporated into the modern European and American cultures.
  • Between 1910 and the entry of the United States into World War I, Elizabethan May Day celebrations were very popular, especially at women’s colleges.
  • The first May Day celebration on this campus was in 1904 and featured a musical program by the Boston Festival Orchestra.
  • Almost 3,000 people from all over North Carolina came to the campus for the 1912 festival to see the 1,000 players in the five-hour pageant. More than 1,200 players from the college and training school participated in the 1916 celebration.
  • The theme for both pageants was an Old English May Day with the crowning of a May Day queen, aesthetic gymnastics, folk dances, dramatic performances, games, and parades directed by drama teacher Mary Settle Sharpe.
  • World War I interrupted the College’s May Day festivals and the pageant was not resumed until the mid 1920s. The celebrations during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s were much less elaborate events and usually consisted only of a May Day queen and her court.
  • The last May Day celebration, sponsored by the senior class, was held in 1954. Since the pageant was so close to commencement and consumed so much energy, money and time, the senior class voted to abolish the tradition.

Visual from Archives: Marietta Muller, UNCG’s May Queen 1938