GPS Celebrates May Day 2021

The long-awaited event is celebrated under sunny skies
In the 1920s, the senior with the longest hair was named GPS May Queen, since she could braid her tresses and fashion them into a crown. One hundred years later, our May Queen and court are chosen for a greater distinction: representing the senior class in the highest sense. They should be gracious, friendly, and loyal to friends and to GPS. They should be actively and enthusiastically involved in the life of GPS, eager to give of their time and their talents. They should stand for the highest ideals in character and integrity and should be respected and admired by fellow schoolmates and faculty alike.

This year’s long-awaited May Day celebration of our May Queen, court, and graduating seniors comes at the conclusion of a challenging year for our students, faculty, and staff. One year into a pandemic, we’ve learned a new way of conducting ourselves inside and outside the classrooms. 

Last year’s May Day was canceled due to COVID-19 and, later in July, a hybrid celebration of both May Day and Commencement saw the promenade of seniors without the traditional dances, maypoles, or festival.

Precautions were put in place so that the celebration could take place more traditionally this year, which included moving the fete from the Smith Courtyard to the lower athletic field, distancing students in the viewing areas, and creating seating pods for families. 

The larger space also provided an opportunity to expand this year’s maypole dance—an honor typically reserved only for sophomores—to the junior class students who were unable to participate last year. In addition to the traditional blue, pink, and yellow poles, green and purple poles were wrapped, and all were held in place with faculty/staff alumnae. 

Prior to the pageant, a student festival was held on DeFoor Patio, with various clubs hosting booths for both fun and fundraising. In typical unpredictable weather, the cloudy day became partly sunny with temperatures in the high 70s by the afternoon.

Following the festival, students trekked to the lower field, and sophomore, junior, and senior families were shown to their seats. Head of Upper School Jenise Gordon welcomed the crowd at 2 p.m. and began the pageant with a perspective on how this year’s theme, The Roaring ’20s: Then and Now, was selected and noted some of the contrasts and comparisons between the 1920s and the 2020s.

Gordon then read the names of each member of the Class of 2021, with the names of the May Day committee, court, and queen read last, as she presented the students on behalf of the Board of Trustees of GPS, interim Head of School Dr. R. Kirk Walker, and the faculty and staff.

Our May Day Committee
Mattie Ballentine | Chair
Kenzie Grisar | Secretary
Sydney Morris, Nicola van der Merwe | Senior Chairs 
Cybelle Gable, Alie Williams | Maypole Chairs
Annsley Kelley, AnnaKate Stipanov | Dance Chairs
Chapel Cunningham, Molly Ann Hathorne | Costume & Sound Chairs
Emma Brandao, Anna Beth Coffman | Program, Lawn & Festival Chairs

Our May Day Court
Addie Youmans | Queen
Erin Marshall | Maid of Honor
Astha Sinha | Crown Bearer
Lily DuPlooy | Scepter Bearer
Emma Dexter | Left Train Bearer
Shreena Patel | Right Train Bearer

After the senior class completed their promenade, they took their seats to be entertained by their younger classmates. 

The first dance, “Heart of Jazz,” featured sophomores and juniors and a lively mashup of songs by Duke Ellington and Rihanna. Then, Terpsichord took over the dance floor, or rather dance field, to wow the crowd with a “Modern Flapper” rendition set to music by James P. Johnson and the Jazz Ensemble, Q-Tip, Goonrock, and Fergie. The freshman class danced “Aaand Action!” followed by “Marching Through Time” by the eighth-graders.

Once the class dances were completed, the five maypoles were carried out by alumnae with the ribbons unfurled by the juniors and sophomores, decked out in their white dress uniforms with ribbon belts to correspond to the maypole colors. The traditional music was from Camelot with choreography by former GPS faculty Peggy Evans Thomas and Cathie Ault Kasch ’72.

Next up for our senior class will be Cum Laude today, where we acknowledge the top students in their class, with teachers paying homage to their GPS accomplishments. Their final bow will take place two weeks later with Commencement on Saturday, May 15, at 9 a.m., when their family, friends, and our faculty will celebrate their departure from our school on Smith Courtyard—weather permitting. 

Special thanks for our successful May Day goes to Co-Director | Pageant Erin Davis Sizemore ’98; Co-Director | Dance Laurel Moore Zahrobsky ’90; Senior Director Tracie Marlin Durham ’80; Assistant Director Amanda Byars ’99; Presenter of Seniors Jenise Gordon; Maypole instruction by Cathie Ault Kasch ’72 and Kingsley Michaels Bennett ’94; our teams in MarComm, facilities, and dining services for their behind-the-scenes coordination; Lee Wright and his students for their camera and audio work; photography arrangements by Jordan McCarter ’96; and all the teachers who helped with myriad tasks preparing for the event and assisting the day of. The day is truly a culmination of weeks of work by nearly everyone on campus. 

To see the video about our May Day tradition, click here.

Click here to go to our SmugMug account where you can download photos for free or order for a small fee. More images of May Day will be uploaded soon.