The May Fete has been a part of “May Day” activities since the beginning. Some of the earliest May Fetes were “Pageants” and had a different theme name than the main May Day theme. In 1924 the pageant was “Heart of Youth” and presented in four acts (1) Awakening of Spring (2) Conflict of the Elements (3) The Gathering on the Green – Crowning of Queen (4) The Awakening of Love.
For many years the McPherson High School physical education teacher directed the May Fete as part of her contract with the McPherson school system. During that time the dances were learned as part of the physical education classes. In 1968, the Beta Beta Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Alpha, a social and philanthropic sorority took on the direction of the May Fete and continued until 1976. Donna Fry continued on the May Fete committee thru 1994 and Shirley Morris remains as May Fete Chairman, having served on the committee since 1968.
The McPherson May Queen presides over the May Fete Activities. The May Queen is the only person that has not changed since the beginning. During the years her Royal Court has included a Prince Charming, a Maid of Honor and Queens from the McPherson County High Schools. There were also Flower Girls and Crown Bearers from McPherson. 1971 was the last year that McPherson was represented by a Maid of Honor. The Prince Charming was changed to May King in 1984.
There have been McPherson County Queens since the 1940’s, however, in 1961 the county high schools were invited to select their own Prince Charming. In 1971 the Flower Girls and Crown Bearers were also selected from each of the County schools. This included a May Queen, May King, Flower Girl and Crown Bearer. This royalty then represents each McPherson County High School and builds their own royalty float for the All Schools Day parade on Friday. For many of the previous years the Beta Omicron Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Alpha Sorority designed and constructed the All Schools Day float for all the royalty.
In the 1940’s there were nine county high schools: Canton, Galva, Inman, Lindsborg, Marquette, McPherson, Moundridge, Roxbury, and Windom. With the consolidation of the county schools we now have only five high schools in the county: McPherson, Canton/Galva, Inman, Moundridge, and Smoky Valley (Lindsborg & Marquette).
The Elyria Christian School of McPherson will participate for the first time in 2013.
There have also been changes when and where the May Fetes have been held. The earliest May Fetes were held at 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning before the parade in Central Park or Memorial Park which is located behind the McPherson County Courthouse on West Kansas Avenue. In 1941, the May Fete was held at the new Lakeside Park Bandshell for one year. In 1948 it was moved once again to Lakeside Park Bandshell where it continues to be held every year. Until 1962 the May Fete was held on Thursday evening and again on Friday morning before the parade. In 1963 there was only one performance on Thursday evening and since 1964 the May Fete has been held on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Since 2008 the Wednesday evening May Fete is held at the Bandshell and the Thursday evening May Fete is held in the McPherson High School roundhouse. In 1961, there was an additional pageant on Saturday morning for the Kansas Centennial Day and was held at the City Auditorium. In 1970, we also included a Centennial Queen – Mrs. Louise Crabb; and attendants, Mrs. Anna Harder – Windom and Mrs. Mabel Fornberg – Lindsborg.
There are several groups that have assisted with the May Fete for 10 years or more. One of these was the Jolly Jills Home Demonstration Unit who faithfully cut the streamers for the May Poles. Streamers for the winding of the May Pole are fabric and are 4 inches by 9 yards in length. These streamers are ordered new each year and must be cut for the new poles. Streamers from past years are used for practices for the next year.
Other long time “faithfuls” include the McPherson College Art Department and the art students who painted the back drop for the bandshell each year. This project was written into the curriculum of the McPherson College Art Department, ending in 2013. The Central College Jazz Band and the McPherson High School Jazz Band have also performed for many years prior to the May Fete. Morris & Son Clothiers and Kari Lynn’s Bridal Boutique assisted with Tuxedos and dresses for the May Fete Royalty and Claude Hughes and Chuck Vetter also served many years with the public address system for each performance. Jordan Bandy has recently taken over this position. The McPherson Park Department, the Fire Department and Law Enforcement Departments have also assisted us in many ways through the years.
When I was in high school we would sing and dance to a piano that would be brought out to the Bandshell from a local store and used to accompany all of the musical acts. When I started on the May Fete committee we had to use reel to reel tape recorders to record each group because we could not have every group perform “live” being outside in the park. That meant we would travel to each school in the county the first of May and record each singing group on tape. On the first Friday night of May we would go to the local radio station and work for five hours with Claude Hughes who seemed to “work miracles” with all of the tapes we brought in for him. He was so skilled at “splicing” the tapes that I worried he would cut the end off of someone’s song and I held my breath until I heard everything was O.K.! Those evenings were such a wonderful learning experience as we ate snacks and shared an important “unseen event” getting ready for “May Day”.
There have been many changes in the May Fete performances. The early May Fetes were all presented by students from McPherson. In the 1960’s numbers were added from students in the county schools and since that time the county participation has grown steadily. As changes come about in the schools we must adapt with our performances also. We encourage participants of school age, pre-school thru college. The May Fete is not a “talent show” but a way to share the talents of the students as they come together and entertain.
Every year it is a pleasure to meet and work with the hundreds of students and directors who come to participate in the May Fete. In recent years with the changing technology our hours of advance preparation have been cut tremendously. With the very busy schedules of students, teachers, and directors towards the end of the school year, we never have a “dress rehearsal” for May Fete. The participants arrive, hand us their music CD and perform. It is up to the May Fete Committee to be prepared and keep the show moving. Our May Fete performers and directors cooperate beautifully with their talents as they appear and perform at the proper time with only an “Order of Performance” schedule handed to them.
It has been important and rewarding to share with all the students in McPherson County as the All Schools Day priority is to include and honor all students during this week in McPherson.
The participation and willingness of thousands of people has made serving on this committee a rewarding experience and I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to everyone who has been a part of any May Fete, especially the members of the May Fete committee, the All Schools Day committee and others who have volunteered so faithfully to help honor these students.
The present May Fete committee includes Shirley Morris, Gloria Schroeder, Kristi Stout, Kathy Hawkinson, Kathy Love, Charlotte Holub and Jamie Hawkinson with a combined total of more than 140 years on this committee. They have given countless hours of dedication to each performance and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Shirley Goranson Morris
May Fete Chairman
Written February, 2013