The event starts at midday, when the Mayor of St Ives and the Grand Bard of Gorseth Kernow choose the May queen, king, princes and princesses. This ceremony is known as the pee-whip. The name is also used to describe whistles made from sycamore that were once blown across Cornwall on May Day to signal the coming of summer. At this time, traditional “May Horns” are also blown.
During the day, the St Ives Guisers dress in mock formal clothing and perform Cornish dances. At 1pm the Mayor and Grand Bard lead a procession to the harbour area of the town. Following them are a number of people wearing flower head dresses and carrying sticks with flower decorations attached, known as “May Sticks”. Following the procession, local children dressed in red perform a maypole dance.
Like many traditions in Cornwall at this time of year, St Ives May Day celebrates the coming of summer and the end of the cold, harsh months of winter that have come before it.