BELGRADE — Dozens of area residents spent a cloudy afternoon at Winterberry Farm by celebrating the change of seasons like European Pagans have for centuries — maypole dancing.

About 50 people attended Sunday’s event, which also included sheep shearing and yarn spinning. Farm owner Mary Perry said Sunday that her farm has held the maypole dance for the last eight years. Perry said attendance has fluctuated from 50 to 150 during the event’s history, depending on how nice the weather is.

Participants danced around a pole, methodically wrapping green and white ribbons around while two girls riffed on fiddles. The exact origin of the dance is unknown; historians have tied it to Germany and Ancient Rome.

Kris Weeks Oliveri spins wool fiber Sunday at Winterberry Farm in Belgrade. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

In Ancient Rome, the maypole could have been a part of traditions for Floralia, a celebration of Flora, the goddess of flowers and the season of spring, where a tree was wrapped with vines and adorned with flowers. April 28, Sunday’s date, was the traditional start of that celebration. In Germany and Great Britain, it has links to Pagan fertility rituals — for humans, livestock and the land — held in the spring. The rituals were frowned upon by Puritans, who effectively halted celebrations in the 17th century in Britain and the U.S. Two centuries later, the celebrations popped up again, even being held at Christian churches as part of May Day celebrations.

At Winterberry, Perry leans more toward the German and British maypole tradition. A handout she circulated at the farm said the maypole symbolizes “the union of masculine and feminine,” a major theme in Pagan May Day celebrations. The pole, which is a young tree, represents the masculine and the ribbons wrapped around it represent femininity.

“The parents usually remember doing this from elementary school,” she said, adding she learned the tradition through her children’s Waldorf schooling and reading books by Tasha Tudor. “It’s tradition; I’ve always looked for places that do stuff like this and couldn’t find it.”


Waterville resident Caroline LaFave and her daughter, Nora, attended the maypole dance for the first time on Sunday but had visited the farm for other events. LaFave said she limits time in front of the television for her children and advocates for spending time outdoors and at farms like Winterberry.

“When we can, we’re outside most of the day,” she said. “(They were upset when) I had to tell them that we had to stay inside yesterday because it was raining.”

Caroline LaFave pushes her daughter, Nora, on a swing Sunday at the Winterberry Farm in Belgrade. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Perry said her farm mostly grows cut flowers but does offer community supported agriculture shares with other crops. The farm is also an event venue that can host weddings and regularly offers farm-to-table dinners in the summer.

“Whatever I can do to bring in agri-tourism,” she said. “As the kids are getting older, … it’s coming up with a plan that doesn’t take me off to farmer’s markets.”

The farm received an agricultural easement in 2012 from the Maine Farmland Trust and the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, protecting it from any other use in the future. Perry and her children Kenya, Gil and Sage have operated the farm, which dates back to 1870, for 19 years.


Sam Shepherd — 621-5666
[email protected]
Twitter: @SamShepME

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