SMITHFIELD - May Day festivities that were celebrated at the Smithfield Elementary and High School for 25 years were discussed by Linda Kovach at the Smithfield Historical Society meeting held Monday at the society's museum complex. She showed photos of the events through the years as well.
She said the celebration was started by Octa Foster, principal and journalism and Latin teacher, in 1938, explaining its origin came from the Romans who brought their celebrations, devoted to the worship of Flora, goddess of flowers, to the British Isles.
May Day was the second most popular day of the year for the British, falling behind the Beltrane Festival, a springtime fertility festival. The two festivals were combined and it became an English tradition to bring a maypole or tree in from the woods and wrap it with violets to look like the figure of Artis, an ancient Roman God.
In the Smithfield production, the entire school took part, with elementary school students singing songs and dancing. The maypole dance, consisted of a pole tied with colorful streamers or ribbons that were intertwined around it while dancing.
The lower class girls in high school did the maypole dance, dressed in their finest pastel dresses.
The highest honors went to the senior class. A popular young lady was selected as the May Queen and she had four female and male attendants as her court. Youth between the ages of 4 and 6 years old served as attendants to the May Court.
Judie Phillippi presided over the meeting and reported the glass enclosure the group wanted to obtain for the antique school bell, now located in the Friends Church Cemetery, will be too costly. The bell originally was located in the bell tower of the Smithfield High/Elementary School located on High Street and then moved to the Smithfield Lions Club Camp. It then was moved to Northwest Elementary School, and at the close of the elementary school, the bell was moved by the Lions Club to the cemetery.
Members then discussed building a roof over the bell, landscaping the area and placing a plaque to designate its history. Final plans were not made.
Evelyn Clouston and Linda Helt of the Friends of Smithfield group were guests at the meeting and reported on a Historical Marker Day scheduled for 1 p.m. July 28 at the Quaker Cemetery.
Clouston said the marker was researched by Diane Matthews Rodd and approved by the Ohio Historical Society, devoted to the history of the underground railroad that was connected to the village and other historical facts about the area.
They plan to involve Mayor Ted Boyd and council members, the fire department, Smithfield and Piney Fork American Legions and churches and urge all members of the community to attend the dedication of the marker.
Clouston and Helt asked permission to use the Historical Society Museum and meeting room to serve refreshments after the program.
Phillippi said a cleanup of the building and its kitchen would be necessary before the event and in preparation for the Apple Festival, to be held Sept. 21-23. Members plan on having a food concession for the event.