This time of year, the hills of York County, Pennsylvania, are swathed in the fine green haze of early spring, the flowers are blooming, and there is a sense of abundant life amidst the steep wooded hillsides, old measows, orchards, and pastures. On or about May 1st each year for the past nineteen years, the magic gets turned up a notch at Sproutwood Farm in Glen Rock, when, festooned with flowers, ribbons, and fairy dust, the farm gathers people in from near and far to sing in the May.
The May Day Fairie Festival is the mother of all the fairie festivals, large and small, that now dot the globe. For three days, in an out-of-the-way town you’ve probably never heard of, fifteen thousand people gather for a celebration of spring. Besides the expected crowds of ren rats, hippies, New Agers, and square pegs of all stripes, the festival is equally well-attended by local suburban families, from toddlers to grandparents. The group has one thing in common: they come out to have a simple day or three amongst the hills and trees and grass, under the sky, beside a babbling brook with family and friends old and new, to eance, eat, talk, learn, and—perhaps most importantly—simply play. A rowdy gang of fellows dressed as Green Men march through the festival, a King and Queen of the May are crowned, and visitors are encouraged to join in parades and to sing along.
Like the farm it’s held on, the festival has grown organically with a lot of nurturing and love. The income from the festival goes a long way towards keeping the farm’s core mission alive: bringing people and nature together through educational programs, festivals and its Community Supported Agriculture program. Although it is indeed a commercial venture, the festival is run almost entirely on the energy of volunteers, who believe in the place, the event, the farm’s mission and the community that has grown up around the farm. Quite simply, come hell or high water (and it’s had both), the festival WILL happen! It’s grown from a one day party for a hundred friends to a three day event that has brought in as many as 16,000 people to its 26 acres over the course of the weekend.
As the festival has grown, so has its reputation locally, nationally and internationally. The event has been covered on NPR, and is the subject of an upcoming documentary. The festival is now lucky enough to draw participants from the upper crust of the music and creative world, featuring musicians such as Clan an Drumma and its descendant, Albannach. It has also enchanted authors such as Ari Berk and Spiderwick Chronicles author Holly Black. The farm is especially pleased and honored to call illustrator Charles Vess part of the Spoutwood family. Beyond his now annual appearance, he kindly provided the festival with its logo illustration for this year’s event. This year, the festival will be host to the premier of the film “Gateways to Faerie” and the first public launch event of Charles Vess’s collaboration with Neil Gaiman, “Instructions.”