Archer Maypole tradition weaves together past, present

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Photo credit: Daniel In

Naiobi Benjamin ’22 and Evan Bowman ’22 perform the Maypole Dance on Moving Up Day of 2016. During the dance, the entire school gathers to watch.

Archer’s annual Moving Up Day marks the final day of the school year, welcomes summer and celebrates rising students. This year’s annual event will occur on Friday, May 26.

The day begins with the final advisory of the year and ends with the faculty and staff waving goodbye to students as the buses drive off campus. In between, the day is packed with award ceremonies, teacher skits and the long awaited Maypole Dance.

“The story of the Maypole actually predates Archer as a school here,” Dean of Students Travis Nesbitt said.

One winter season, when the Archer campus served as the Eastern Star Home for Women, Brentwood neighbors wanted to surprise the residents with a holiday symbol.

“At Christmas time, there was a chain link fence on the back wall and [the neighbors], in styrofoam cups, wrote out ‘Merry Christmas’ in the middle of the night,” Nesbitt said. “[When] the women woke up to this big, mysteriously written ‘Merry Christmas’ sign in the back, [it] made them really happy.”

The sign brought the women so much joy that the neighbors decided they wanted to do something more. One summer night, they snuck back onto the grounds and set up a maypole.

“The women woke up to be surprised by this beautiful, colorful Maypole on the lawn,” Nesbitt said.

When Archer took over the historic building, the school decided it was an important tradition to keep alive. As seniors and their families set up the Maypole each year, they are reminded of its history by one of the neighbors involved in the original surprise.

“The same man who started that tradition over thirty years ago, comes every year to help the seniors and their parents set up the Maypole, and he tells the same story,” Nesbitt said.

When it comes time for Moving Up Day, the honor of performing the Maypole Dance and weaving the ribbons is given to the sixth grade class. Kate Burns, Sixth Grade Dean and Music Director, coordinated the performance this year. Although the weaving stays the same, the dance changes every year based on the strengths of the sixth grade students.

“The Maypole [Dance] changes a little bit from year to year,” Burns said, “This year’s sixth grade are awesome singers, and so they are going to involve music and singing in their performance.”

The Maypole is an important ritual for Archer students during their entire journey.

Photo by Daniel In
Vaughan Anoa’i ’22 smiles for the camera as she performs the Maypole Dance on Moving Up Day last year. The dance is performed each year on the last day before summer break.

“I think it sort of bookends your Archer experience,” Nesbitt said. “[The Maypole Dance] sort of marks the beginning of your Archer experience and then as seniors, you set up the Maypole and that marks the end of your Archer experience.”

Tenth grade dean and history teacher Meg Shirk describes Moving Up Day as an opportunity to unite the campus before summer break.

“It’s one last chance for for the Archer community to come together as a whole,” she said.

For rising seniors in the Class of 2018, this will be the sixth maypole many have experienced.

“The Maypole is nostalgic for me. I remember when I was a sixth grader, nervously holding onto my rope,” Isabella Simanowitz ’18 said. “It still represents a really important part of my life because it was the first time I realized what Archer meant to me.”