By Lauren Wiygul Riley '05
Springfest, a treasured tradition at St. Mary’s, has evolved over the years, both in name and festivities. Called May Day until 1990, Springfest dates back to when the Sisters of the Order of St. Mary led the school. Each year, a junior is elected Queen by her Upper School peers, and a sixth grader is elected Princess by her classmates. During the Springfest ceremony held every April, the Queen and Princess are both crowned by the former Queen and Princess. Each senior presents an iris to a member of the junior class, marking the transition of leadership. The Queen and Princess are both chosen because they demonstrate the ideal qualities of a St. Mary’s girl: kindness, compassion, positivity, involvement, hard work, and leadership.
As the 87th Queen of St. Mary’s, Margot Bell Roberts ’78 fondly recalls her time on the May Day Court. May Day was the highlight of the school year (along with the Christmas Pageant) and a joyous celebration of song and dance. In a special tradition that continues today, students performed musical tributes for the elected Queen and Princess. In the year of Roberts’ coronation, the performance was inspired by the Grimms’ fairy tale, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”
Roberts remembers how students worked hard in Mrs. Derek Rooke’s ballet class all year to perform for the court at the May Day ceremony, culminating in a stunning performance of elaborate costumes and carefully choreographed ballet routines. The remarkable production took place outside, and the whole school was involved. “May Day was magical to watch and always will be one of my favorite memories from St. Mary’s,” Roberts said.
Roberts also credits the teachers who worked equally hard to bring the performances to life. “There were many teachers that made an impact on all of us through our years at St. Mary’s, but Mrs. Rooke and Music Teacher Ms. Anne Reiners made the creative classes so enjoyable and fun,” says Roberts. “They truly had a passion for what they taught, and the students benefited greatly from their love of music and performance.” May Day was a highly-anticipated event, not only because of the performance but also because the tradition marked the end of the school year and a symbolic transition of leadership from the seniors to the juniors.
Similar to today’s tradition, Roberts donned a long, white dress and chose Anne Sharp and Emily Mallory ’89 to join her during the procession as her pages. During the ceremony, Roberts received a crown and a mantle, passed down each year from the previous Queen. Being crowned Queen was an incredible honor for Roberts, a St. Mary’s “lifer,” who was also Princess during her sixth-grade year.
For Roberts, May Day represented everything she loved about St. Mary’s. It was a moment for students and teachers to honor each other with a joyful tribute and celebrate what it meant to be a St. Mary’s girl.
After graduating, Roberts attended Vanderbilt and met her husband, John. They have three children and have lived in Tokyo, London, and New Jersey; they currently reside in Charlotte.
Lauren Wiygul Riley ’05 holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Auburn University and a Master of Education from Vanderbilt University. After teaching at St. Mary’s for six years, she now teaches sixth grade English at Presbyterian Day School. She is married to Pete Riley, and they have three boys: William, Andrew, and Neal.
175 Years of St. Mary's
This story is part of our 175 Years of St. Mary's series. For 175 years, the mission of St. Mary’s Episcopal School has been to provide a superior educational experience for girls. Our robust academics, Episcopal identity, and rich traditions create an environment where girls flourish as students, athletes, creators, performers, and more. Most importantly, at St. Mary’s, integrity, compassion, and confidence are the norm for our girls. From Chapel to the PE class, alumnae reflect on the experiences and traditions that have made St. Mary’s a special place for girls to learn and thrive for 175 years. Click below to read the other stories in the series.
- Day by Day: Words Etched in Our Hearts
- A Family Legacy: St. Mary’s Oldest Tradition
- A Gift and Tribute: The Carillon
- Mrs. Leonard: What Love Looks Like in Teaching
- Encouraging Me to Be Me
- A Tradition of Sisterhood