In the Czech Republic, entire villages come together on May Day to celebrate the raising of the Maypole. Hanging onto ribbons secured at the top, residents wrap the strands around the Maypole in a traditional dance.
“I have traveled to the Czech Republic, and this is something I’ve been witnessing over there for years,” said Carol Kotasek, who helped introduce Czech May Day to Montgomery three years ago.
A few years ago, Kotasek invited a group to travel with her to the Czech Republic during May Day. That group included Jim Mladek, who with several others now serves with Kotasek on the Czech May Day Committee.
“Once we watched [the ceremony] over there, we realized it was something we could certainly do,” said Mladek.
The Czech May Day Committee, with the support of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery Community Club, makes the celebration possible this year from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 4 on Main Street at the corner of Pine and First.
Czech May Day in Montgomery includes a Maypole raising and ribbon dance as well as music by the Czech Area Concertina Club. Members of the Czech May Day Committee demonstrate how to perform the traditional Maypole dance before inviting members of the community to join.
Mladek described the origin of the Maypole dance as “a spring rite to ensure fertility” while the Maypole itself was an object of a village competition.
“Once you got your tree, you had to guard it so no one else would take it from you — even after it was up, so other villages wouldn’t cut it down,” said Mladek.
In preparing the Czech May Day in Montgomery, Mladek said the most challenging part is bringing a tree into town and getting it ready for the raising. He said an individual donates a tree every year in memory of his wife, who died several years ago.
The finished Maypole looks like a decorated Christmas tree at the very top, but the branches are otherwise stripped down. A ring at the top secures the ribbons, which are wrapped around the Maypole during the dance.
Apart from the Maypole raising and dance, the Czech May Day in Montgomery also involves a tug of war, face painting, a car roll-in and wagon rides. Czech cuisine at the celebration includes chicken paprikash, jitrnice sandwiches, pork dumplings with sauerkraut and hot dogs served Czech style. At the bake sale, guests can purchase kolackys among other Czech treats.
While the event is free of admission and open to anyone, Kotasek encourages those attending to bring their own chairs due to limited seating. In the event of inclement weather, tune into KCHK 95.5 FM or call Kotasek at 612–756-1054 for updates.