Celebrating wonder as MayDay turns 40!

Here in the Twin Cities, different benchmarks designate spring's arrival. We wait for the snow to melt, the potholes to be filled, the perennials to sprout, and eventually we come out of hibernation to play with our neighbors at the MayDay Celebration! Mark your calendars to join the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater (HOBT) on Sunday, May 4 for the 40th year of this incredible parade, Tree of Life ceremony, and festival.

Mary Delorie is a longtime MayDay fan. You can see her in the photo above, enjoying the mango-on-a-stick.

You may think of the day as a hippie bacchanalia that is only welcoming to progressive white folks. Not so!

Yes, there are a lot of free spirits running around during the day, but there is an open invitation for all to join. You can come with flowers in your hair, high top sneakers, wearing hijab or a business suit. All are welcome from every corner of the Twin Cities and beyond. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the drive into Minneapolis with the family piled into the mini van—it is! This parade is a must-experience activity for the whole family.

The executive director of HOBT, Loren Niemi, describes the day as, “a barometer of political and cultural temperature. With its roots in political response to Vietnam War, MayDay has always manifested something about the essential hopes, dreams, concerns and fears that reverberate in the community.”

A community meeting in early February asks people to answer questions such as: What's troubling you? What's giving you hope? Former parade organizer, Malia Burkhart, said that parade artists take information from this conversation, and do their best to translate into a visual image / symbol / action that happens on the street during the parade, to convey a message that's been collaboratively created.

This year the theme is Wonder? Wonder! Sandy Spieler, artistic director of HOBT, says the theme is “rooted in Rachel Carson’s seminal work, ‘Silent Spring’ and is focused on the state of the natural world–-especially manifest in bees, butterflies, and the thousands of small things that share the planet with us. Carson said that wonder is ‘an unfailing antidote against the disenchantment of late years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.’”

Northeast Minneapolis resident Matthew Gozel explained why he participates in MayDay: “The world feels like a bleak and lonely place sometimes. I attend MayDay because it's important to remind myself that my community is filled with people who care about one another.”

Emily Seru, from St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood, said she has been to MayDay every year for 15 years, and for the last five with her son because first and foremost it’s fun! As important, “it carries meaningful tradition that aligns with our family values of community and peace, and connection to our past and the natural world.”

A social and environmental justice agenda is placed at the center of the meal with lots of puppets, music, and camaraderie served as side dishes. Don’t miss the mangos on a stick with salt and chili on the corner of Bloomington Ave. and 33rd St. E. sold by a local family. They’re a fan favorite!

Keeping MayDay part of our Twin Cities tradition

Paid staff and artists work diligently to capture community spirit. And not only are thousands of volunteers needed to help create the puppets and costumes during public workshops throughout April, but donations are also required. HOBT’s Company Director, Paul Robinson, works with staff to secure the necessary permits, traffic control and parade marshals for the day, along with water and electrical supplies, port-a-potties, lots of food vendors, and stage musicians.

This isn’t an event that will ever welcome corporate sponsorship, so it’s up to community members to dig deep into their pockets to ensure that we don’t lose this crucial springtime observance. Spieler recommends that if every person who participates in the day’s activities offers a $5 donation there would be enough funds to meet the necessary budget. If you can give a little more this year, it would be most appreciated. Let’s not take this celebration for granted. Learn more about the income and expenses of the MayDay Parade by viewing this infographic.

Sally Nixon, born and raised in Powerhorn invites everyone to come out, “MayDay feels good in my soul. It’s my Christmas.”

Those who have attended in the past should note that the parade start time has shifted to noon. Plot out your spot on the parade route early and plan to meet new friends as you squish together to share space.

MayDay Weather

And, since it IS Minnesota — If MayDay is postponed due to bad weather, announcements will be made by 11 am, May 4 on:

KFAI Radio (90.3 FM Mpls · 106.7 FM St. Paul)

WCCO Radio (830 AM)

Facebook · Twitter
On the doors of the theatre


The rain date for MayDay is Sunday, May 11

40th Annual MayDay Parade and Festival

05/04/2014 - 12:00pm

Parade starts at NOON this year!

The theme is “Wonder? Wonder!”

  • The event of a lifetime happens every year. Now the event is 40. Ya know just like that. Once you go you'll never miss again. Help make it happen with your spirit. And help the fun and message reoccur yearly anyway you can. Feed the tiger and look for the yellow buckets out of the corner of your eye as you oh ! An aha ! At the huge amount of creativity, time, energy and dedication spilling out of the artists huge hearts. - by Joe Musich on Tue, 04/29/2014 - 4:48pm
  • As an unabashed fan of the MayDay festivities, I think this article includes information that may aid you in becoming the part of MayDay that we would most welcome. Happy MayDay wherever you are. - by Alan Wilfahrt on Mon, 04/28/2014 - 7:56pm
  • The best parade and celebration of spring anywhere! It is a celebration of imagination, joy, and community. Plus, after a tough winter, the MayDay celebration is a welcome invitation to the coming spring and summer. If you've never seen it, go early, get a good spot on the street, and have a great time. - by Michael Kennedy on Wed, 04/30/2014 - 9:55am
  • Love this amazing annual Parade and Festival with all my heart and support it w/my $$$! - by Carol Banks Olyphant on Tue, 04/29/2014 - 10:23pm
  • Wonder... - by Leslie Johnson on Tue, 04/29/2014 - 8:45pm

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Mary Delorie's picture
Mary Delorie