May Day, celebrated on May 1st, is a public holiday. It was traditionally a spring festival celebrating the coming of spring with dance, singing, and good food.
In the late 19th century, May Day came to mean something more — the date was chosen for International Workers’ Day, after some 200,000 US workmen organized a strike for the 8-hour work day.
For the past 45 years, Minnesota’s In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) has traditionally held the May Day Parade on the first Sunday of May.
The May Day Parade and Festival was initially organized after the end of the Vietnam War, when anti-war artists and puppet-makers got together to celebrate with their art. It was initially a “scrappy parade” for a “scrappy community.”
Since then, the May Day Parade and Festival grew with over 60,000 attendees. Several people are even employed as full-time staff to organize it every year.
HOBT have held community workshops in preparation for this event. During these workshops, community members are free to drop by and work together to build a piece of the parade, whether it’s butterfly wings or a giant stilt or even a giant working bison.
As the parade marches on, a festival celebrating the beginning of spring culminates at Powderhorn Park. The festival incorporates the traditional singing, dancing, good food, and more.
However, the future of the May Day Parade and Festival is uncertain.
In 2018, HOBT announced that the 2019 May Day Parade would be the last May Day Parade due to funding cuts.
As 2018 progressed, more and more community members and artists pooled together to raise the needed funds in order to pull off the 2019 May Day Parade. Even with the funding pooled together, it’s not enough for the 2020 May Day. This raises the question of how to continue to fund events and arts organizations like these.
Declines in funding for events like May Day means the loss of community traditions, something many hope to preserve in their communities.