MayDay's longtime artistic director Sandy Spieler explores the plan for this year's parade to a group of children and parents during a recent Saturday workshop. Photo by David Joles.

Sandy Spieler, who has midwifed the MayDay Parade since its humble, hippie beginnings, wanted to mark its 45-year anniversary with trees. Maybe, she thought, they give away 45 saplings -- one for each year of MayDay.

"And then I went, no," she told a group of children at a recent parade-building workshop. "What if we had one tree for the first year, two for the second, three for the third..."

As she counted, several of the children's eyes grew wide. "It equals 1,035 trees," Spieler said. "And what if we were able to adopt that many trees and get them into our places, our homes, our neighborhoods?

"Because maybe we can say thank you to those trees for providing all the paper for the papier-mâché, the cardboard" they've used each year to build the parade.

Today's parade in south Minneapolis, which starts at noon, will be Spieler's last as artistic director. (Read more about In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, which produces the parade and festival each year, is fighting to survive.) She's getting older, she noted, but she also wanted to ensure that younger generations take hold of its intentions and traditions.

"I'm stepping back to not be in the way of what needs to happen," she said. "Ok, this is the 45th year, maybe this is a good time."

Trees have been a theme of of the parade and Powderhorn Park ceremony from the beginning. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources donated the saplings. During the April workshops, volunteers built cradles for them out of popcorn cups and cardboard. Spieler is hoping people who receive them plant, water and care for them.

"Do you know what a cradle is?" Spieler asked the children. "Right, it's something you put babies in." She pointed out that on this cradle, a boy wrote his wishes for the tree. Spieler, too, tied onto it a golden paper bird that she had tied to the cribs of her own children.

She asked one of the girls to come forward. "He wrote these words and then he held it like this," she said, placing the cradle in the girl's hands, its words framing her face. "And if we read these words, it says, 'Thank you for helping us stay alive, beautiful trees. We will try to let you grow in beauty.

"And then it says, let's grow up together."