By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
Most of us have tall tales we enjoy boasting about to friends. But the Apollo Maennerchor Club took it one step farther by erecting theirs.
Last Sunday club members hoisted a 30è-foot maypole they handcrafted in front of their Sharon club. A German and Austrian custom, the maypole is a tradition going back to the 16th century in which a colorful pole bearing artistic images of a town or region are showcased.
Known as a “Maibaum’’ in German, the word roughly translates as May tree to celebrate the arrival of spring. While Germans brought the tradition with them when settling in the U.S., the custom quietly began disappearing for much of the country after World War II.
With its strong German ties, the Maennerchor Club decided it was time to bring back the tradition, said Tom Amundsen, club president.
“In German towns the Maibaum is still celebrated as a festival for the arrival of spring,’’ Amundsen said. “Many cities compete with each other on their festivals.’’
Club member Jim Kapusta was given charge of the maypole committee, which went to work in January. Initially, they thought the pole should be made out of wood and had a utility pole at the ready. But eventually aluminum was favored as the material of choice.
“We tried to recycle as much as we could,’’ Kapusta said. “The pole came from the National Guard Armory in Farrell and we cleaned it and polished it up.’’
After that beat-up road signs were bought as scrap from the Mercer County Bridge Department and were sandblasted, cleaned and cut to produce a dozen figures atop the pole.
The figures showcase the area’s heritage and culture such as a steel mill, train, an Amish buggy, a canoe on a river and singers with beer mugs and pretzels.
Kapusta credited a large turnout of volunteers for making the maypole possible. Artisans and craftsmen worked on the maypole for several months, doing everything from cutting aluminum to painting. After completion the maypole was walked from a warehouse in Sharon to the club on Sunday.
Thanks to volunteers and donations, the maypole cost less than $1,000 to create, Kapusta said.
In keeping with German tradition, a family festival will be held at the club on Saturday. A beer keg-tapping ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. followed by the Maennerchor singers and the Peter Karsti Orchestra from 6 to 9 p.m. A traditional German sniztel dinner will be served for $10 and the event is open to the public.
Plans are in the works to make the event bigger next year.
“We’re talking about things like having a parade and making this a festive-type atmosphere,’’ Amundsen said.