May Day Celebration Moved Online!

May Day 2020 on YouTube

For the first time in 40 years, the Annual May Day celebration, hosted by Thornden Morris, will not take place on May 1st at dawn in Thornden Park. This traditional and entertaining celebration has always been enthusiastically supported by the local community, often numbering from 100 to 200 people in the audience. In past years, guest teams have included the Bassett Street Hounds, Heartwood Morris, and Ribbonsteel Rapper, a sword dance team.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency, we respect the governmental request to socially distance. In keeping with the season, we have instead created an online experience, a virtual May Day celebration to welcome Spring. When we are again able to socialize, the team will hold a Day of Dance, perhaps for the Summer Solstice in June.

If you visit our celebration on YouTube, you can see Morris dancing, performed as you’ve never seen before, as well as a Mumming Play. This once-only 15-minute comedic performance follows an ancient plot model, a protagonist who is brought down by his character flaws but learns from the experience and emerges a wiser person. The play celebrates the themes of light and dark, and death and renewal, and the end of winter and the return of the sun and fertility of the soil, usually with a lot of broad comedy. The plays are written in rhyming verse and often have topical themes.

Thornden and Heartwood Morris Reorganized

Thornden Morris welcomes Heartwood Morris
February 5, 2020

The beginning of a new year brings the beginning of a new chapter in Central New York’s Morris dancing community. Thornden Morris, a traditionally all female Cotswold dancing group, has combined with Ithaca’s Heartwood Morris. The new team will keep the Thornden Morris name and overall kit, but will be gender inclusive and will incorporate a few Heartwood Morris kit elements.

Thornden Morris was chartered in the 1980’s in Syracuse and named after Thornden Park, a beautiful municipal park in the center of Syracuse near Syracuse University. The Rose Garden in Thornden Park, where Thornden Morris takes its logo of the rose from, is a favorite stopping point, especially in June when the roses are in full bloom. Thornden Morris dances are in various traditions including Fieldtown, Ducklington, Bampton and more.

Heartwood Morris was started by Peter Hoover in the late 1990’s concentrating on Adderbury and Fieldtown traditions. He was a stalwart musician for many years, helping contribute to the group’s style and exuberance. With the contributions of others including Peter, a new tradition was born, “Ithaca-on-Hemp” combining many of the steps from other traditions.

Both groups have participated in May Day, a longstanding tradition in Syracuse, since 1981. This sunrise celebration takes place on May 1st with dancing, May Day cake, and a Maypole. There is also a mumming play, a tradition performed for hundreds of years, uniting the past and present in humorous social commentary.

The new group, named Thornden Morris, will perform the traditions of each group, highlighting both groups’ characteristics and in the future, creating stronger dance routines. Nancy McCracken and Julia Schult will train us as co-fore with Nancy as squire.

Practices are on Tuesdays at 6:30. We always welcome new members to join in the fun and camaraderie. Contact Nancy McCracken at (315) 471-7591 or send email to her at

For the latest news and events, please see our Facebook Page.

Thornden Morris current and past members in 2001 at the 20th Anniversary Ale

You may also want to check out the homepage of another Morris team in Syracuse: Bassett Street Hounds, a mixed Border Morris team. Other teams appear on the Wikipedia Morris Teams Directory.