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Cotillion celebrates elegance and beauty
May Day festival honors communitys young women
Debutantes and their escorts dance the Waltz during Saturday’s Newtown Florist Club Cotillion, the first of its kind in nearly 50 years, at the Gainesville Civic Center. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Joslyn Keels, 8, and Raina Keels, 4, woke up at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

After all, it takes time for two princesses to get ready for a big day.

The girls were chosen by Mount Zion Baptist Church in Flowery Branch to participate as “princesses” in this year’s May Day celebration at Fair Street IB World School.

May Day is a harvest festival, which existed as the spring celebration of the harvest in the 1700s. The last celebration was held in 1954 before Fair Street became an integrated school.

This year, the celebration is back, and along with it beautiful debutantes fully prepared to show their pride and elegance.

The celebration began at Fair Street Saturday morning with a performance by the praise dance team from St. John’s Baptist Church.

The princesses, ages 1 to 15, then were announced.

“We have May Day princesses from all the different elementary schools in Gainesville,” said Qiana Keith, the Executive Director for the Genesis Council of the Newtown Florist Club. “Their principals nominate them to participate, and we look for girls who exemplify qualities such as sweet, smart, responsible, caring, and beautiful spirit.”

Girls ages 16-18 participated in the program through the Newtown Florist Club.

“This is a great group of girls, and we have learned a lot,” said Paisleigh Burrows, 17, a student at Faith Academy. “You get close to the girls; this is like a sisterhood.”

Burrows said that her favorite part of the experience has been spending time with the other girls.

“This is a good opportunity because you interact with different personalities, and you get to know people better,” Burrows said. “You get sisters out of this program.”

Keith described the girls as having “pride, elegance and beauty.”

“When I was a little girl we would have pageants, and the pageant participants would line up and there would be Corvettes, and the girls would get to ride through town,” she said.

Keith said that those opportunities raised a foundation for the girls of her generation.

“Now these little girls will go, ‘I want to be one of those girls in the white dresses,’” Keith said. “They will look forward to this and set the bar high from now on.”

Saturday evening, the girls participated in a cotillion debutante ball at the Gainesville Civic Center, the first held in 50 years.

“The girls participate in a cotillion program, in which they have etiquette training and social and cultural responsibility courses,” Keith said. “They also do community service projects and for that, they are the traditional bells of the debutante ball.”

Keith said the girls were all looking forward to Saturday’s events, and she believes the May Day celebration has been a good opportunity for them.

“God tells us that he sets us apart for certain things in life, and this shows the girls that they are set apart and special,” Keith said.

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