Tonight is a special night for an Irish couple from New Jersey.
Ed and Kathy Hansbury, who are not Irish dancers nor Irish dance teachers, are this years Gradam Award Winners of the World Irish Dance Championships.
The Hansburys are volunteers at the Worlds and have been for the past 23 years. They are the people who make sure the successful dancers each get a piece of Tipperary crystal as a token of their success.
Ed and Kathy’s volunteering adventures began years ago in Florida.
Ed, who is a Tipperary crystal’s representative since 1989, was given the job of transporting all the championship trophies from New Jersey to Florida.
“We did so in a trailer and I said I would never do it again,” he said with a laugh.
“That was our first adventure doing crystal awards for the dancing community and then it just spread all over, all the different regions have used Tipperary crystal,” he said.
This is the couple’s tenth World Championship. However, they have been supplying Tipperary crystal for awards such as the All-Irelands, mid-Atlantic region and many more for 23 years.
“This is my thing,” said Ed who hails from Dungarven, Co. Waterford. Kathy is from Claremorris, Co. Mayo and the couple now live in northwestern New Jersey.
“I don’t go to the bar, so I really enjoy all these competitions,” Ed said, adding proudly that he is a pioneer.
Speaking about having the Worlds right on their doorstep, Kathy said, “I think it’s wonderful and it’s nice to see, especially this capacity, the Worlds to move around a little bit. It makes everybody happier on this side of the Atlantic and the other side of the Atlantic. It’s nice. It adds to it, especially at this level.”
Although the couple have not been involved competitively in Irish dancing competitions at this level, they told IrishCentral.com that they have been very much active in the Irish dancing culture since the 1970s, when their own children danced.
And the Hansburys are no strangers to a few steps themselves.
The pair enjoy going to Ceili’s and can be seen every summer in the Catskills, in East Durham, NY.
“We’re champions up in the Catskills,” said Ed, proudly.
After receiving world that they would be receiving the Gradam award this year – an award that is usually given to dancing teachers – Ed admitted that he was “absolutely shocked.”
“I got an email from the Mid-Atlantic region stating that we’re being honored, Kathy and myself, and I couldn’t believe it! I had to read it twice. I said they’re making a mistake,” he laughed.
“I was thrilled because I never thought in my days that this would ever happen.”
Said Kathy, “It’s nice to be appreciated and they’re showing their appreciation which I think is wonderful.”
After the dancing winners receive their piece of Tipperary crystal tonight, the Hansburys will take to the stage and get their own award, with pride and, no doubt, big smiles.