Emerald Association member Mary Thorne, honored at the Putnam County Feis for her services to the Irish dancing community

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Lots of Irish dancers won prizes at the Putnam County Feis, but some adults received awards too.

Mary Thorne was one of them. She was officially honored at the Feis for her services to the Putnam County Irish dancing community.

A Donegal native, Thorne first moved to the Bronx and made her way to Putnam in upstate N.Y. in the 70s. She has been a member of the Emerald Association for 19 years, and has seen a lot of changes.  

“There’s a lot of Irish people in Putnam and they’re very active,” Thorne says. “For us, there’s camaraderie. The Emerald Association is a social club.”

Meeting the parents and children is one of the things Thorne loves about the Feis. “It’s amazing to see the young generation come up,” she said. 

Although Irish dancing is dominated by Irish Americans, Thorne has seen other nationalities participate too. She puts this down to the popularity of “Riverdance.”

“It’s amazing to see them all do Irish dance – or Irish step-dancing as they call it here,” she says.  

Feis Chairperson, John Glynn, also recently received an award, the prestigious Gradam award from the Coimisiun for dancing in Ireland for his work perpetuating Irish culture in the U.S.  

Glynn, from Galway, first came to the States in 1959, at the age of 24. Wearing Irish tweeds, he was stunned to walk off the plane into 92 degree heat.  

Glynn is now more acclimatized to the U.S., but he still thinks Irish culture is vital. 

“If you can’t identify with your heritage, what can you identify with?” he said. “Then you got a problem.”