Enduring Traditions, May Day in Port Coquitlam

While the May Day tradition in Port Coquitlam officially started early in the 20th century, its roots lead back to very early Pagan rituals in Europe. While certain aspects have adapted to suit modern times, several themes, such as dancing around the maypole (originally done around a tree), the crowning of a May Queen and the joining together of a community to celebrate the arrival of Spring have endured over time.

The very first Port Coquitlam May Queen in 1923 was Evelyn Mars (who returned in 1998 for the 75th anniversary). In that year the May Queen celebration was organized between James Park and Central Schools and the formalities held by the river. The following year the festivities were moved to the grounds of the original Junction School (now Rowland Lacrosse Box). One year later, in 1925, the Women’s Institute took over the event and the whole thing moved to Aggie Park. In the early 1930’s a parade was organized and R.C. Galer of Port Coquitlam Transfer Company (now PoCo Building Supplies) donated a flatbed truck to use as a “royal carriage”. The parade would continue to grow in popularity and size from then on.


School children maypole dancing in the early years, circa 1920
Source: PoCo Heritage Archives P2003-312

Royal Party on the back of R.C. Galer’s flatbed truck in the rain, circa 1940
Source: PoCo Heritage Archives P2003-398

In 1962, a May Day Committee was formed, comprised of seven different community organizations, and in 1967 the celebrations were moved to McLean Park. After a year of horrendous weather in 1972, it was decided to move the formal portion indoors to the arena, where they have remained ever since. In 1993 Ambassadors were also selected to serve next to the May Queen, and in 1998, as May Day celebrated its 75th year it was turned into a four day event. Now, May Day spans an entire week and the community tradition is stronger than ever.

Source: PoCo Heritage Archives P2003-384
Maypole dancing in the Port Coquitlam arena, circa 1990
Source: Tri-City News / PoCo Heritage Archives, P2004-2-45

Sources:

“History of Port Coquitlam”, Edith D. Chambers, 1973
“Port Coquitlam - Where Rails Meet Rivers”, Chuck Davis, 2000
The City of Port Coquitlam
Wikipedia, the Open Encyclopedia