Every May, for the passed hundred and ten-odd years, Quadra Island has celebrated May Day. Apparently the first May Day, celebrated back in 189-something consisted of a May Pole dance at the local school. Its grown since then, and has gradually been pushed to the last weekend of the month (in the hopes maximizing the fair weather to drunken attendees ratio (May 24 weekend was a short-lived, ill advised idea)). These days, there is a parade, a barbecue, face painting, belly dancing, bag pipes, a grease pole, the auctioning off of boxed lunches, and a proper May Day court added to the mix.
The parade begins at 10:00PST, with home made floats from the local school, day care, and community groups. The theme, this year, was ancient cultures, so the floats (which were largely pick-up and flat-bed trucks overflowing with people in costumes) included Caribbean Cave Girls, Vikings, and Buddha. (See the coming photo gallery, for a picture of each and every float =D)
The parade runs along the road leading up to Rebecca Spit. Once the fire trucks have passed, everyone follows along behind the parade, up to the Spit itself, where the real festivities begin.
We have the coronation of the May Day Queen, her first and second Princesses, and their escort (all elected from the sixth grade class). The Queen recites the speech which earned her the title (it highlights the history of May Day festivities on Quadra Island, and the Queen’s own ambassadoral properties), and then various community members thanking various other community members for their various community contributions.
This is followed by the May Pole dance, a surprisingly co-ordinated effort by the fourth grade class. I’ve seen children perform May Pole dances in the past, but on Quadra Island, the children get a coach, and oodles of practice leading up to. They may each have their own sense of rhythm and speed, but no one got tangles or lost, which is usually the best part.
After the dance, the lunch box auction began, and the crowd quickly dispersed. The kids divided between the beach, and the grease pole. The grease pole is an odd tradition, which has been around for at least 25 years. They take a large pole, maybe 30 feet high, and slick it down with lard. They then suspend a bag at the top of the pole, which contains $50. Whoever can reach the top of the pole to grab the bag gets to keep the money. Kids can exert an amazing amount of energy, if not agility, for the promise of $50. N has fond memories of this as a kid. Apparently the trick is to dip into the water, and then roll in the sand. Once you’re good and gritty, you can begin working the lard off the pole by trying to climb it. Of course, by the time you’ve got all of the lard rubbed off, you’ll be too exhausted to climb to the top of the pole. But some other, more patient, kid will be not far behind, to slither his way up to the top.
We missed the African drumming and belly dancing, having wandered down to find some shade by the beach. Its a typical Canadian beach, with rocks instead of sand, but there are dozens of run-away logs which have washed up on the short, which are suitable for sitting on, or dragging back out to the water for a sort of raft.
Most of the festival, however, is just folks visiting with each other in the commons. Eating, and talking, and watching the kids, and slowly getting heat stroke.
We snuck off early, and found our way down to at the general store, where they sold (among other things) the most amazing smoke oysters. I had always thought of smoke oysters as being a heavily processed food, for which proximity to ocean would offer no advantage.
The Oyster Man (located on Cortes Island, which is the next one over) over plump, juicy and sweet, with no oil to be found. And best of all, they do mail order.
We also tried an environmentally conscious local pilsner (“Think Global, Drink Local”), which was thoroughly non-descript, which also means not bad at all. Shaftbury Summer Days, its called.
This evening is the May Day dance, featuring an African Drumming band from New Guinea, who may or may not be the same drummers missed at the Spit. And a barbecue at C’s sister’s.