maypole

Members of Lancaster Liederkranz raise a new maypole on its Manheim property.

Lancaster Liederkranz is now the Guinness World Record holder for the largest maypole dance.

The organization hosted a celebration of its new Maibaum (maypole) on May 9 when 163 couples —326 people — completed a traditional seven-step dance, a seiben schritt, in a circle around it.

The organization was told of the world record status July 29.

Lancaster Liederkranz president Bob Kilp said a Maibaum is part of German culture.

“Each city traditionally has a Maibaum near the center of town,” he said.

The Liederkranz maypole was installed when the organization moved to its facility at 722 S. Chiques Road, Manheim, in late 1993. Kilp said it was refurbished about 10 years ago by the original donors of the pole, Leslie and Doris Blouin. Last year the maypole was again in disrepair and planning began for a new one.

Joe Eckenrode, Liederkranz trustee, donated a 40-foot cedar tree from his property for the maypole. It was felled and delivered to the Liederkranz property, where volunteers cut off branches and removed the bark. It was smoothed and painted; brackets to hold the shields, and the shields themselves, were installed.

“We decided to raise the new maypole the way that it’s done in the Alps — using handmade poles and tools to lift the pole into place. We traditionally host a Maifest, but it’s held indoors. This year, the committee decided to hold it outdoors and make a daylong event out of the maypole raising,” he said.

In planning the event, Eckenrode discovered that a group in Canada had set the world record for the most dancers performing a dance around the maypole; they had 106 couples. “We thought we could top that,” he said.

On May 9, as the Philadelphia German Brass Band played music, the men carried the pole onto the grounds accompanied by whip crackers to ward off evil spirits and followed by the dancers.

The event not only celebrated the new maypole; it also served as a fundraiser. Kilp said a large portion of the proceeds were earmarked to defray the $200,000 cost of a streambank restoration project that was completed last year.

The organization’s clubhouse and large pavilion are along the Chiques Creek and sustained damage during Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011. The streambank project is intended to help mitigate the impact of flooding and improve the water quality of the creek.

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