The American Pride Feis was held September 12 and 13, in Nashville, TN. The feis was located inside the Convention Center of the lovely Gaylord Opryland Resort. This feis was sponsored by the Tennessee Irish Dance Organization. The school behind the feis is the Southern Academy of Irish Dance. The feis offered multiple competitions, including baking, art, instrumental music, Tir Na Nog, First Feis, and charity treble reel competitions. This year’s charity treble reel proceeds went to the Navy Seal Foundation. (Go Navy!) This year’s feis was very well organized and well run. It may well become one of the top Southern Region feisanna to attend, much like Nation’s Capital and Rhythm of Ireland.
Some of you may remember that I am NOT a fan of hotel feisanna. Thankfully, the Gaylord Opryland is a Hotel, Resort, and Convention Center. So, this feis actually falls under convention center feisanna. The convention center rooms are much like those of Union Station in St. Louis. Large, plenty of seating, room for camping, and room for walking. The only bottle necks occurred in the Awards Room. Please see Awards for further remarks.
The venue makes this feis an experience, not just a competition. It is large enough to handle an enormous influx of people. It is also a treat to visit. For those staying in the resort overnight, there are a number of things to do. In addition to practicing steps on the stages, which the feis volunteers had ready for use by 6pm – well done, again, Recruits – there are the gardens, the fountain show, arcade, indoor riverboat, shopping, restaurants, several pools, spa, and 24 hour fitness center.
We did not have a problem finding seats at any of our stages. There was also room for camping inside the feis halls. The Southern Region is not known for feis camping, so the room available seemed more than adequate. There were 5 vendors at the feis. A local photographer, Eagle Sports Shirts, wigs and hair doodahs, dance shoes and poodle socks, and portable speakers. The hallway outside of the feis halls was situated very well for the feis vendors and feis traffic.
Since it is a large venue, parking is designed for a large number of cars. Think theme park sized parking solutions. So, parking is not fun. But, it is not impossible or a pain. Just not fun. For those so inclined, you can park at the Opry Mills Mall, and one other lot, for FREE. Free is good. The walk to and from the car may be more cost than some would prefer. Self parking at the resort is $20 per day, plus tax. Which is quite the jump from FREE. Or, you can pay $35, including tip, for valet. The Wilkes family checked ahead and budgeted for the self parking at the resort. We found it to be a reasonable solution for our family. If we had not known ahead of time, and budgeted, it would have been quite a shock.
Feis Flow: 5
They get an A for effort. The Recruits certainly did all they could to keep the feis running on schedule. The feis started on time. 7:55am with the presentation of the flags and singing of the anthems. The feis ended about 4:15pm. They were tearing down stages by 5pm. Between that time, it was an adventure. Stages 3 and 4 were stalled for over an hour because of champs and judge rotations. Stages 1 and 2 experienced stage schedule changes, due to that unplanned break. See also Results.
Everyone of our little darlings had very little judge rotatiion. Or, the judges were rotated, but the dancers were also rotated. So, they were dancing for the same judge on a different stage. The ideal is a different judge for each dance. It did not happen at this feis.
Part of this score comes from the Awards room itself. More than one dancer missed a special because their awards were being announced for a championship, while their special was being loaded on the stage. The results time also depended on the stages. 1 and 2 posted in about 30 minutes from the dancing, before lunch 3 and 4 were between 10 and 20, before lunch. After lunch, it was catch-as-catch-can. Average wait time was 20 minutes from dance to posting. The results did go online very quickly. You could almost check your phone as quickly as the room. Which was nice, if there was a large awards ceremony ongoing, when you came to the door. The paper replacement system on the wall worked well. With lunch being pushed back, the stages were pushed back, which pushed the results back. See also Flow, which affected Results.
Overall, the awards were well done. Sashes for champs placing in the top 3. Stuffed cups, bowls, and china plates for awards, in addition to trophies. Champs were awarded in the results rooms, with a red, white, and blue podium. Prizewinner and Champs received distinctive trophies for top 3 placements. The medals were roughly the size of the bottom of water bottle. This feis also included the medal ribbons, which was certainly appreciated by the younger set of dancers. Many grades dancers enjoyed the sound of clinking medals, as they walked.
Several families were met with confusion and delay in the awards room. There appeared to not be clear communication about who was to receive what award and for what competition. My suggestion would be to have a list by each distribution volunteer. Or, to have each award on the table clearly labeled. This does NOT have to be complicated. Feis ATL used Post Its last year. Simple, but effective. Also, 3 of the treble reels were to have been awarded on stage. But, the awards never made it out to the stages. So, they were picked up. Also, a couple of the competitions were labeled Trophy Specials in the syllabus. When it came time to pick up awards for those competitions, dancers found out it meant a trophy for 1st place and medal for 2nd and 3rd. Hopefully, these issues will be resolved in time for next year.
The Awards room was the only crowd causing problem area. Thankfully, that room also had multiple doors. So, just by going down one door, you were able to enter the room. You did still have to wait to get to the walls, depending on when you were in the awards room. The grades results were on walls in a corner, which created obvious problems. Who wants to be put into a corner, anyway?
Let’s sing the Doxology! It had to be a miracle! Every stage had a wonderful accordianist. Such joy, to hear the melodious sounds of the accordion from every stage. Was there music carry over? Yes. But only when one musician stopped playing, while the musician in the next room continued. When the music was resumed on that stage, there was no carry over at all. I did not see any musician related timing errors on either of the grades stages.
In addition, a local Irish pub provided the soloists for the anthems. It was wonderful to see the room in which the anthems were held come to a respectful stillness and silence. It was awe inspiring to hear the other feis halls become silent when the alto soloist sang our National Anthem.
Feis Food: 8
The food options were tremendous. If you could not find something to suit your taste, it is your own fault. The Wilkes family ate at STAX. The burgers were HUGE. Our little dancers split a combo meal very happily, with left overs. That turns into $6 per dancer. Considering the location, we found it to be very reasonable. Especially when I think back to paying $3 for a PRETZEL at Queen City. So, $12 for a meal large enough to split between our two youngest dancers was a feis meal deal. Ash Wilkes also had multiple options for his feis coffee. There was a pay per cup machine just done the hall from the main feis area. It was a very short walk for a fancier cup of coffee. In 7 minutes, he was able to walk to several cafe options for his coffee. So, while not inexpensive, the venue offered many options at several price points.
Our results on the wall didn’t match up with what was later posted online. I’m not even sure how that was possible, but we went home with trophies that the online results said we shouldn’t have had.
If we make the drive next time, we’ll have to take pictures of the walls to prove our placemments to our TC.