Back to Amanda’s Bequest

This is a follow up to a post I wrote last year, and some of the references may make more sense if you read that first. This is a bit more ‘story-tellish’ than most of my posts, and the story does not do it justice 🙂

ab1So a year after our discovery of a hidden gem in Montague, MI we returned to the Muskegon area for the 2014 Michigan Feis. It started with a Facebook message to Valerie, the proprietor, saying we were on the way. She let us know that she had other guests this year and that breakfast would be at 930. I replied that we would need to leave about 8 to get to the feis on time, and she need not worry about us, but shortly after, received a response saying we would not be leaving without breakfast, and that we could eat at 730.

ab2We arrived after dark and the front light was off, so we parked near the back and went in through the back as the kitchen light was on. Valerie met us in the kitchen with hugs and a smile. NOTE: I think we got the hugs because we were repeat customers. She had warm cider and home made donuts and cupcakes waiting, and after we got settled in our room, we came back down. We met a young German couple, B & K, also repeat guests, who had also stumbled across Amanda’s for their first visit. We sat around the table and swapped stories about whatever, ate donuts, drank cider, and somebody had snuck in some beer.  We laughed and acted like people would have before the onslaught of technology. I am beginning to think this house has that effect on people.

ab3The next morning I got up early and while Mrs. WTF and TGC got ready upstairs, I went downstairs and found Valerie, once again in dress and apron getting breakfast ready. There was a large skillet of sausage gravy and the blue coffee pot on the stove. John was there to, and he got me a cup of coffee, and I moved off to a seat in the corner of the kitchen and took it all in. Sitting in that kitchen is like going back in time, not just the decor, but the feeling. There is just a sense of calm and maybe it is because it reminds me of my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s kitchens, I don’t know. Doesn’t matter why.

ab4The women folk came down, and we were seated. For breakfast we had fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, scratch biscuits, sausage, gravy, toast, a homemade cinnamon jelly, and more coffee. John and Valerie joined us and had coffee while we ate, making sure our cups stayed full and that we were well fed. Everything was as it has been, wonderful.

ab5We finished up and went on our merry way. The feis was good, made all that much better by TGC’s (The Girl Child in case you have stumbled upon this and are not familiar with all the players) great results in the competition. Since she had done so well, she was invited back for the Parade of Champions at the Michigan Irish Music Festival (MIMF) which coincides with the feis weekend. Since we would have to be back that evening, we skipped going to the MIMF right after the feis which had been our norm, and went back to the B&B for a little rest between the events. I was not surprised to find fresh made fall pies waiting, but we would have to wait till Sunday morning before partaking. There were still donuts and cider though.

We opted for rest instead of exploring the yard, seeing the chickens and ducks and rabbits as we had last year, and since the last time, they added a small pond. Plus, since we were back at the festival in the evening, we missed the opportunity for a bonfire which was another of the highlights of our last stay.

ab7The MIMF was fun as always, but a lot more crowded in the evening than we were used to in our afternoon visits. Suffice it to say the crowd was a bit more ‘boisterous’ as well, so we retired before 11 and went back to Amanda’s Bequest.

Sunday greeted us with another wonderful breakfast, starting with the pies made the day before. The Sunday morning pie tradition, we found out later, had been going on for about a year, and we believe we were the first (or one of the first) guests to enjoy this new tradition in 2013. The fall pie was excellent, but I really prefer the Heritage Apple Pie Valerie makes (shh, don’t tell her). A breakfast bake followed, with fresh salsa made from ingredients from the garden in the back yard, toast, jam and coffee, and excellent company. The German couple had been replaced by a ‘foodie couple’ who both worked in the industry, and the conversation was lively and educational. It even came out that Valerie had developed a curriculum to teach children the basics of heritage cooking, and that she had not only successfully taught her program, but that it has been gaining popularity in Michigan and was being adopted by various agencies to help children.

ab6Some time later, with bellies full and minds freshly expanded, we said our goodbyes to Valerie and John. It isn’t often that I am so taken by a place, but the genuine relaxation I find there, plus Valerie’s cooking and the hospitality of both her and John make Amanda’s Bequest a must-see in your getaway plans if you are in that area. Admittedly, it is more expensive than local hotels, but it’s really hard to put a number on what you will walk away with. My hope is your experience will be like ours.


Michigan (Muskegon) Feis 2014 Review, Champs

The 2014 Michigan Feis was held on September 13, 2014 at Muskegon Central Catholic High School in Muskegon, MI. This is the 4th time the WTF famila has attended this feis, and honestly, it is one of our faves. Jeanette did an awesome job for the over all feis review so I will just be adding notes for some things she did not cover from a champs perspective or other items. I do suggest reading Jeanette’s review along with this one for the big picture.

One thing I do not think she mentioned is that each dancer gets a free ticket into the Michigan Irish Music Festival which is a savings of $15 to $20 if you are going to it, which I highly suggest.


We were at the other end of the school on Stage 1, in the far gym, the one Jeanette did not get too. The stage was very large, over 30 x 30 but the gym was very warm. One large fan at the front door was not cutting it keeping the room cool. NOTE: I am not the large fan that was trying to be cool.

Stage condition was great and I only saw one near slip, by TGC actually, and that was because of trying to avoid a collision with the other dancer.

Everything else Jeanette says is spot on, except, although George the Shoe Guy’s company was well represented by Betsy, his daughter, George is still recuperating from his surgery, and according to Betsy is doing well.


Typical for Champs, three judges, all attentive, no special comments.


For stage 1 there was the ‘standing fiddle player’ I have mentioned in the past. There was some issues with sound before TGC danced but they got it all worked out and things went smoothly the rest of the time we were there. The stage is so far away from the others that music bleedover in literally impossible at normal volume levels.


We took advantage of the coffee and morning items. All reasonable and the coffee wasn’t terrible.


I have to concur with my co-reviewer, things move pretty quickly awards wise, so fast in fact TGC needed to do a quick change back into her dress as we got back to the gym right when her comp announcements were about to start. I would say it was less than 30 minutes from the completion of her dances to the presentation of awards. Admittedly, this was one of the smaller comps she has competed with in a while, but that was still really fast.

Regarding the Champ awards, they received medals if they placed top three in their dances, and then a nice gift for overall placement. I saw crystal and china items, not sure what else was handed out. A negative, they only gave sashes for 1st.

Since this feis runs in conjunction with the Michigan Irish Music Festival, top finishers get to participate in the Parade of Champions at the festival, AND one parent gets a free ticket. Sure we had to scalp our ticket at the gate since we bought in advance, but hey, it worked out great 🙂

Feis Flow

Pretty good, but it took a lot longer for TGC to dance then we assumed based on the number of comps and dancers that went before her. For champs, they took 2 – 3 age groups and rotated through the dances for them before moving to the next age groups. When she started however, start to finish was less than 30 minutes (remember, small comp but the comp that was running with hers had 15ish dancers).


I am with Jeanette on this one, a few little nits like the temperature in the gym and only giving sahes for 1st, but this feis is easily a 9.

What did you think?

Want to rate the feis or have an opinion? Please visit the Grades Review page and use the poll at the bottom of the page. Thanks!

Michigan (Muskegon) Feis 2014 Review, Grades

The 2014 Michigan Feis was held on September 13, 2014 at Muskegon Central Catholic High School in Muskegon, MI. This is the 2nd time we have attended this feis, and we have had a very pleasant experience here both times. This review is mainly aimed at the Grades experience at this feis.


The feis was held at Muskegon Central Catholic High School.

Parking was free, plentiful & close – which was a nice change from many other feiseanna we have attended recently!

Because this feis is associated with the Michigan Irish Music Festival, there was an admission fee for adults at the door (I believe it was $8/person), but dancers were admitted free. There was a bit of a bottleneck getting into the school because people were paying the admission fee, but those who checked in the night before at the feis hotel & got their admission wristbands paid for then were able to walk right in. We had not prepaid, but still waited less than 5 minutes to get in, which is quick compared to other feiseanna we’ve been to with a similar setup.

Registration and awards were right inside the entryway, and my dancer was checked in quickly and easily.
The feis had 4 stages this year – 3 for grades & 2 for PC/OC. The PC/OC stage was off on its own (and I never ventured over to see it, to be honest). Stage 2 was housed in the school’s auditorium, which made for a nice experience for the dancers on it – quiet, calm & out of the way. My dancer was on this stage when we attended in 2013 and really enjoyed it. The other 2 stages were in the gym, separated by a decent distance. All stages were of a reasonable size & the quality seemed great – I don’t think I saw a single fall on the 2 stages in the gym all day.

I really liked this setup, as I didn’t feel like I was crammed into a room with 1,000 of my closest friends (as I often do at feiseanna), but if you had dancers on multiple stages, it might have been difficult & tiring to run back & forth between them.

I did not check out the vendors, but I understand that George the shoe guy was there, along with a t-shirt vendor & a wig/bling vendor.

Restrooms were convenient & relatively clean. I never had to wait in line in the ladies room, which was nice.

There was no camping, but there was sufficient room for everyone’s gear at the stages. The auditorium was large enough to hold people & bags in the chairs provided, and the bleachers were adequate for everyone & everything in the gym.

Practice space was pretty much non-existent. There were signs up all over the place asking that dancers not dance on school floors. Dancers in the auditorium had some carpeted space at the back of the room that they could practice on, but the dancers in the gym were limited to a small corner.

Overall Venue Score: 8/10.


My dancer danced 6 times and was seen by 2 judges. That’s not overly great rotation in my opinion, but it is relatively typical for a feis run by level. My dancer’s judges seemed attentive & provided detailed & helpful comments, which we appreciate, as that doesn’t always happen.

Judge Score: 7/10


On the grades stage in the auditorium, the music was great. The musician was excellent & there were no sound/tempo issues that I noted. On the 2 stages in the gym, one had a violin & one had an accordion. My dancer danced on both stages & said she had no issues hearing either musician & really didn’t note much bleed over between the stages (and she is usually the first to complain about issues with hearing music), but sitting in the bleachers, I could only hear the accordion. I did see one dancer on one stage start her traditional set dance at the wrong time, because the song was being played on the other stage as well. At one point, one of the judges stopped the dancing on his stage & had a discussion with the accordion player & a feis volunteer & then rearranged speakers so he could hear the music better, so at least there was a willingness to adjust things as needed.
My suggestion in this area would be for the feis to take a cue from the Missouri State Championships and use a single musician for both stages. It might slow things down a little bit, but it would eliminate the bleed over issue altogether.

Music Score: 7/10


The feis had a concession stand with hot dogs, chips & other similar items. Not much variety or much of anything healthy, but prices were quite reasonable. More importantly, unlike most other feiseanna we attend, there was no restriction on bringing in your own food, so we didn’t even need to visit the concession stand. Volunteers even smiled at us as we walked in with our cooler & asked if they could share the Jimmy Johns sandwiches we brought with us, which was a nice change of pace!

Food Score: 8/10


This is where this feis really sets itself apart from others, in my opinion. Instead of crowding around a wall where results are posted (although I believe they are posted on a wall somewhere too), you simply hand your number card to a volunteer at the awards table, who looks you up in the computer, prints out all your results (including comments & exact placements!) and hands you your awards.

We don’t check results until our dancer is finished with all her dances, so I don’t know how fast results were posted during the day, but she got in line to pick up awards within 10 minutes of finishing her dances & was able to get all her results immediately.

This year, the feis was also posting results online. I believe they were updated every 30 minutes or so, so it was probably faster to simply walk over to the awards table, but it did allow folks who weren’t able to attend the feis to see how friends had placed. My dancer was thrilled to receive a congratulatory text from a friend at home who saw her results.

Placements appeared to be generous – I am not sure of the exact formula, but it appeared to me that the feis placed either through 5th place or half the dancers, depending on level & the size of the group. I doubt many (if any) dancers went home empty handed, which I like – it’s nice to see the dancers have a little something to show for their hard work, in my opinion.

Medals were awarded for all grades placements, and trophies were given out for 1st place in Open Prizewinner. The medals were very nice quality & were unique – not your typical cookie cutter circle with a sticker slapped on. And best of all, they came with the ribbons already attached (other feiseanna, please take note – parents LOVE this!!!). The trophies were also nice quality – small, but well made.

Results/Awards Score: 10/10

Feis Flow

For grades, this feis was run by level, which meant people were in & out fairly quickly. My dancer had dances in novice & open/prizewinner both. She started dancing around 10:30, and we were done by 2:15, which included a fairly long lunch break.

One thing I found odd was that there was no timeframe given for the lunch break. When my dancer asked a stage monitor how long the break would be, the answer was “we’ll start again whenever the judge comes back”.

Volunteers did move dances from stage 3 to stage 4 (both in the gym) in order to keep the feis moving quickly. However, no announcement was made (at least not that I heard), and it was just luck that my dancer noticed that 2 of her dances had been moved. Clearer communication about that & about the length of the lunch break would have been nice.

Feis Flow Score: 8/10

Overall Score: 8/10 – Great job Michigan Feis!!!

This is one of our favorite feiseanna – we will definitely be back again next year!

What Did You Think?

[poll id=”68″]

Great Lakes Feis 2014, Grades Review

image001The 12th Annual Great Lakes Feis was held August 17th, 2014 at the Lansing Center in Lansing, MI.

This was our first trip to the Great Lakes Feis and we really enjoyed it.

We did the Feis as a double Feis with Rose City. I was saddened to hear this feis was moving dates in 2015 to the last weekend in July. Several of our friends from our home studio wanted to try the double feis in August like we did. Not sure how July will work for our family.

I am adding the grade viewpoint to compliment the PC/OC review from WTF himself.


Stages and Seating

My dancer didn’t say anything about the Grade stage being slippery. She did say it didn’t have much spring to it and felt it the next day. I didn’t see anyone slipping on our stage.

Chairs seemed adequate; we actually gave up our seats and used our Zuca in the camping area. Plenty of space to watch our dancer each time.

Camping and Access

Lots of room to camp. We are bringing a blanket and chairs next time. Just having some bags and a Zuca made our spot prime crossing for everyone else. If you come, bring a blanket to claim your spot and limit others stepping close to your dress bag. Coming from a region with lots of small venue competitions, it was a treat to be able to spread out and not find other people piling on top of your bags.

It was easy to stand close to the chairs and watch each dance. The space works so that everyone can see their dancer.

Awards and Results

Medals for the Grade awards were nice. Bright, shiny and included ribbons. Yes, we have been to a Feis where you had to purchase a ribbon for your medals.

Results posted quickly but a few were skipped. My dancer discovered she could ask at the laptops so she skipped waiting for 1 or 2 to be written on the results wall. When we left, they still had not been written up on the wall. We like being able to get a printout of results and comments. My dancers poured over her comments on our drive home.


Arriving early, we were able to park on the street. Weekend free parking is great. Parking rates were typical but we were able to skip it and park on the street.


Judges rotated throughout the day. Even though my dancer stayed on 1 stage, she had 2 judges. Nice and helpful comments too. She received comments on everything except for Traditional Set. She entered the Art Competition and received handwritten comments. The Art Judge took him time and really judged each piece. She finished dancing before lunch break but waiting an hour or more after lunch break for the Art Competition to post. We always wait for something to post, we were amused that it was Art this time.


Music was good. My dancer had no trouble hearing her music. The set up worked with each stage and very little bleed in music between them.


We stopped at Tim Horton’s on the way in so didn’t try the food. Our friends tried the Nachos and said they were typical Feis food and happily munched away.


Nice selection of Vendors. The t-shirt vendor added the touch of a shamrock to mark your dancer on the list of names. My dancer was thrilled with the little shamrock by her name.

Feis Flow

Feis flow on our stage was awesome. We were done by lunch since my dancer was Novice hardshoe and Prizewinner soft shoe. Even the hardshoe after lunch went quickly. One group of Prizewinner had to dance Hornpipe followed immediately by Treble Jig. The judge and stage monitors gave them a couple minute breather between dances.


Scoring seemed reasonable. My dancer was happy with her results. Lots of places posted so plenty of medals to go around.

We will go back if this Feis fits into our schedule.

Where You There?

[poll id=”65″]


Great Lakes Feis 2014, PC/OC Review

image001The 12th Annual Great Lakes Feis was held August 17th, 2014 at the Lansing Center in Lansing, MI.

We have attended the Great Lakes Feis numerous times and we really like it. We have been going longer than I have been writing reviews, here are the reviews and additional posts I did write.

I was saddened to hear this feis was moving dates in 2015 to the last weekend in July, which is the same weekend as our local Celtic Festival where our school volunteers and dances, so if you go next year, don’t look for me, afraid I won’t be there.

Like my last post on the Dayton Feis, the basics for this feis are almost exactly the same as last year, so instead of repeating, I suggest you read that one first and then come back here for my thoughts on the PC/OC aspects of this feis, which was new for us since last year.


Stages and Seating

Just like last year. The stages were slippery again this year, but I did not see any stage maintenance this year. Not saying there was none, but I did not see any on our stage. TGC mentioned it was really slippery when she came off the stage, and the very next dancer had a slip that stopped the dancing. Other than that, last year sums it up.

Chairs seemed adequate, but… there was some feis shaming, you know where to look 😉

Camping and Access

Like 2013, lots of it.

Awards and Results

Awards for the PC/OC levels were nice, looked like most OC placers got some Beleek ware, while the top 3 PC dancers got something similar. Other PC placers received BIG medals to show their accomplishments. Only first place received sashes for both PC/OC, which I thought a bit odd.

The PC/OC awards were held on an elevated stage. There were lots of seats for viewers, and the dancers had easy access to the stage if they were called. There was no podium on the stage, so all winners just lined up, which I thought could have been handled a bit better if they had had a podium.


Parking seemed good, but like last year, we parked the car at the hotel (which was attached to the venue via walkway) and just left it there until we left after the feis.


This is a repeat of every PC/OC review I have done. Three judges, all seemed attentive and watched all the dancers equally.


Again, pretty much just like last year, even the standing musician was there.

Thinking back, I did not notice any music bleed since the stages were separated pretty well, at least on our end of the hall.

If I had to make any comments, it might be around the announcements heard throughout the hall. They were loud, which was good, but I could see how they could be distracting to the dancers because they happened frequently. Even happened during the PC/OC awards which came to a complete stop until the announcement was over.


I only bought a cup of coffee which was reasonable. TGC had her own money so she bought some chicken which she said was ‘good, not greasy’. Prices seemed to be reasonable for a convention center type venue.


Seemed like the same vendors as last year. We did find some Irish candies, but sadly, no Irish M&Ms.


I thought the results were pretty good. It took between 75 to 90 minutes for the results to come out, but lunch breaks had started and I am not sure if that negatively impacted that any. I did hear that earlier results came out slower, but I think they were about average.

Based on my comments from Dayton, where I did not like them doing overall results first and then individual shoe results, GLF did shoe results first and then overall. IMHO it is much better that way.

Feis Flow

From our perspective, it was great! From start to finish in TGCs comp (all the dancers, not just her dances) was only about 30 minutes. Granted the comp was a little smaller than what we are used to, but they kept things moving.


No problem scoring this one, easily an 8 – 8.5. They do a nice job at the PC/OC level and I would highly recommend this feis if you have not been.

Sadly, unless they change the dates again, or our Celtic Festival moves it dates, or we move, we probably won’t be back, but you should go!

What did you think?

[poll id=”54″]

Detroit Feis 2014, Grades Review

The 2014 Detroit International Feis was held on Saturday, June 7th at the Ultimate Soccer Arena in Pontiac, Michigan


Huge, open space to hold a Feis. There were 4 stages set aside for the grades and there was ample spacing between each so that music didn’t bleed over and confuse the dancers. There was plenty of space set aside for camping and bleacher seating was always available when sought out. My only suggestion would be to set up a few practice areas with a flat/dance friendly surface. It was difficult for my dancer to warm up and run through her dances on the turf areas and the rolled out temporary surfaces that covered the turf areas.


The parking lot was large and parking was free. We arrived an hour after the Feis started and were able to park in the 3rd row right in front of the doors. I did notice when we were leaving for the day that an arena employee was out front with a giant golf cart “limo” offering rides to families if they so desired. Nice touch!

Feis Flow

For the size of the Feis and the amount of competitors, I think it went really fast even though we were there until 4:30. We really enjoyed an actual lunch break with time to rest and regroup in between soft and hard shoe dances. Our stage was very timely and there were no real lulls in the dancing except for a 10 minute break when the musician needed to run to the endless line in the bathroom!


5 judges for 5 dances. Doesn’t get much better than that.


I will admit I was very leery of how this would all play out because this Feis doesn’t split grades until numbers in a comp reach 30 and with some comps reaching 28, I thought there would be a lot of tears across the board with so few having the opportunity to place. I was pleased to learn that the Feis committee required the judges to place at least half of the total comp numbers regardless of how small or large they were. Medals were awarded 1-5 place and ribbons were given for 6 and 7 place winners. We have a rule studio wide that results are not to be checked until the end of all your dances so I can’t speak to how quickly the results were posted on the wall but they showed up on Feisworx within 10 -15 minutes of the completed dance. I was able to show the awards staff my daughters HP results via Feisworx before it was posted on the wall and we were able to collect all her medals and leave before it came out from the results room.


Total disaster for anyone who attempted to order from the concession stands. They were completely overwhelmed and could not keep up with the throngs of families that all showed up during the lunch break. I spoke with people who waited over an hour for their food that never was produced. Lots of people were issued refunds and were not able to eat. The venue did not allow outside food or coolers to be brought in but didn’t really enforce it. Saw lots of people eating picnic lunches in the camping areas and also several who gave up on the concessions and made a run down the street to the corner to one of the several fast food restaurants located there. We had ample time to eat our lunch and snacks that we packed and enjoyed the break outside in the sun on the front lawn.


Standard Feis fare. Nothing out of the ordinary there. I will say that I did like the choices and the prices for the Feis T-shirts being sold at the registration table.


This was one of our favorite Feisanna to date. I am very glad we decided to give this one a try and we will definitely go back next year! On a side note: I have been told that the Feis committee is reevaluating their split policy for next year. I hope they lower it to the more customary 24 split guideline most follow.

What Did You Think?

[poll id=”40″]

Detroit International Feis 2014, PC/OC Review

b7516be3d6a350f0bb91a148aef24a62The Detroit International Feis was held on June 7th, 2014 at the Ultimate Soccer Arena, in Pontiac, Michigan. I wrote a review for this feis last year, and with the exception of the date and one or two other items, I could pretty much copy and paste that here. I suggest reading that review as I am going to just annotate the differences here. It is good to see how things change.


Still love it. Probably one of my favorites. LOTS of room to literally run around if you want.

Stages & Seating

Stage setup was exactly like last year but this year since we were on one of the PC/OC stages I was able to figure out the stage size, which was 32 x 32. This feis, if I am not mistaken, has the biggest stages of any feis I have attended. Even the grades level stages are big at 24 x 32.

There was quite a bit of complaints from both parents and dancers about how slippery the stages were however. I heard from 3 separate parents on different stages as well as witnessed some of this myself. I did not see any falls, but there were lots of slips.

Contrary to last year, the feis team did not appear to be up on stage maintenance. CAVEAT – I left the building at lunch and cannot say if there was any mopping done then. Otherwise, I only saw one stage being swept. We took the precaution of using gaffers tape on TGC’s hard shoes, and we dampened her soft shoes with a wet towel before she danced and she did not seem to have any problems.

Seating was the same as last year, bleachers for stages 1 – 4 and lots of chairs for stage 6. I did not take note of how many chairs there were for stage 5, but there was plenty of room around the stage to set up your own chairs or blankets. Overall, seating was no problem.

Some people did complain that it was cold inside the venue, but I personally thought it was pleasant.

Camping & Access

Camping? Lots of it!, not all necessarily close to ‘your’ stage, but there was lots of room in the bleachers and if you were up to it, there was a ton of room where you could spread out behind stage 6.

Access did get a bit tight between the grades stages and the bleachers as people chose to stand in that area to view or have chats with their firends, but generally you could get through without too much issue.

Awards & Results

Grades results were posted on the far wall behind stage 6 as they were last year.

For PC/OC awards, the podium was set up in a far corner. Lots of room for viewers and dancers, and the distance from the stages didn’t cause any distraction for the stages. Great setup!


Seemed to be plenty but it filled up quick so you might have to park out in the boonies and hike in. They did provide a “shuttle” out to your car after the feis, but that didn’t help with your arrival necessarily.

The other thing they have done the past two years I have been to the feis was block off the circle up to the door. It would have been nice to have that for pickup and dropoff, especially for older spectators and others with mobility issues.


We had no problems with the judging. 3 judges for the stage we were on and they all seemed attentive. It was at this feis last year where I mentioned the ‘distracted’ judge after having seen him judge at one other feis. I think he is the one that got me started watching judge actions a bit closer. This feis though, no issues.


Each stage had their own musician and from where we were sitting, I could not hear music from the other side of the room, so distraction was not an issue, at least on the far side of the venue. I cannot speak to the Grades levels where the stages where closer together.

There was one musician there that I heard playing, and admittedly I don’t dance, but I thought the tempo was off as he played. I did not hear any complaints at this feis, but I have heard issues with this particular musician in the past. This time I heard it for myself.


OK, here is what many consider THE issue for this feis. On the feis website it states quite clearly:

  • NO COOLERS are allowed inside the facility, there is plenty of reasonably priced food available in the venue


Last year the setup was much better, with two concessions. This year, it had changed with the removal of the smaller concession and the addition of a Starbucks (or maybe I didn’t see that last year).

Food lines were outrageous, and food delivery was slow. They ran out of food and was able to scrape up just a pretzel for one of our school parents. I can understand the rules, but make sure you are able to back up the rules.

The saving grace was that the venue is a short drive from a major intersection with at least 5 popular fast food chains. We literally drove out, bought, came back and had a nice lunch (outside) before some people got their food in the line we had tried in the venue initially.


Very similar, is not exactly like the past year. A nice selection of items, including knit and Guinness wear. You can see the list here. Sadly, no Irish M&Ms 🙁


As mentioned above, the results for grades were posted on a far wall, away from the stages, and they could pick up their awards right next to the results display.

The PC/OC had their own corner for the podium and it was roomy and remote. Thought it was well done.

Feis Flow

It seemed like a very long day. Like last year, the lunch seemed to take forever and there was grumbling among the masses. We knew we probably wouldn’t start until after lunch, and that is exactly what happened, but you know as well as I that you can never really be sure, so we got there at 10am.

TGC did not dance till mid afternoon and her comp (which was kind of big) finished in about 30 minutes. Her awards were announced about 75 – 90 minutes later, which seems close to what we have experienced at other feis lately.


If you have been reading my reviews for a while, you may have realized that I didn’t score the individual sections. It seems to me that the scoring does not always capture how I really felt about the feis, and either way, will probably differ from how the person next to me felt about the feis. I have chosen instead to list the facts and just tell you how I would grade it. As always, you can add your rating below 🙂

Overall, not a bad feis. Nothing was terrible and even the food and slippery stage issues had workarounds. And as for the long day, I was the one that got there early, and that is not the feis’ fault.

So, based on all that, I give this feis an 8.5

Don’t even need to think about whether we will be back or not, we will.

What Say You?

[poll id=”39″]

Amanda’s Bequest B&B

And now, there is a sequel visit… read about it here.

Up until now, I have not found any feis accommodations worth blogging about, I mean hotels are hotels right? Some are nicer than others, but generally, as long as they are clean, they are really all the same. But when we waited to long to make a hotel reservation, in Muskegon, the weekend of the Irish Music Festival and feis, I just knew we were going to end up in a hotel that was on the less acceptable end of  ‘really all the same.’  I have to say though, we stayed somewhere this weekend that we all liked so much, I needed to blog about it.

Editor’s Note: Sorry for the long winded-ness of this, but its hard to capture in a few words what a wonderful experience we had at this B&B. It may not be the right place for a ‘normal feis weekend’ but was wonderful for us, and it is definitely the right place for a non-feis family, or just the parents, weekend getaway.


The blue coffee pot, no wires, no plugs, good coffee.

Amanda’s Bequest Bed and Breakfast is a hidden treasure. Located in Montague, about 30 minutes north of Muskegon, it is not your typical feis hotel, and that is probably why we loved it so much. We were greeted late Friday night by Valerie, the proprietor, and chief cook and bottle washer, and upon first meeting, she seemed like any typical B&B owner. She did the typical registration thing, and then gave us a quick tour of the home (which had been built in the late 1800’s), with its eclectic furnishings and large kitchen, which reminded me very much of my grandmothers kitchen in Ireland when I visited her as a child.

Valerie had asked about dietary restrictions when we made the reservations, and we told her of TGC’s nut allergies, and that TMC (the male child) had gluten sensitivities, and when she showed us our room for the weekend, she pointed out the nut-free fruit strudel and gluten free brownies she had prepared, and had waiting in our room as a welcoming snack.  If you know anyone who is gluten free, you know how hard it is to find something that tastes good,  but after we got settled, TMC tried the brownie, and as he tried the first bite, he asked, speaking of Valerie,  ‘do you think she would think it weird if I gave her a hug’?


Peach jam sitting on the antique stove.

Before settling in, we told Valerie that we would have to be up and out early, and that she did not need to worry about breakfast. She told us that we were the only guests for Friday night, and she would gladly prepare an early breakfast for us. We were grateful, because you all know how hard it is to get a decent breakfast on a feis morning.

Saturday morning I got cleaned up and went to the kitchen to find Valerie, in a dress and apron, making breakfast.  When I asked about the dress and apron, since she had met us in more casual attire the night before, she told me that it was the proper way to serve guests, and considering the style of the home, I literally felt like I had walked back in time. Maybe it was the homemade jars of jams and vegetables spread throughout the kitchen, or the old stove and blue coffee pot heated on the flame of the stove, or the woman in the dress and apron cooking breakfast, but it was all oddly comforting.


Breakfast day 1

The table was set with an array of mis-matched china that added to the charm. Yogurt with honey and fresh fruit, and a little granola for the wife and I, but not the kids considering their allergies, hard boiled eggs, home-made banana bread and toast (both regular and home made gluten-free), peach jam (home made of course), bananas, orange juice, water, coffee and butter. What a spread, so much nicer than hotel fare, but that was just the half of it. After the yogurt, Valerie brought in plates of biscuits and gravy, with homemade biscuits, including gluten free for TMC, and she had even improvised the gravy recipe to be gluten free. It included scrambled eggs and salsa that had started in the garden the day before. It was all excellent, and, this is embarrassing for someone whose Mum taught him to always clean his plate, but I couldn’t, there was simply to much wonderful food. Oh, and did I tell you the eggs came from the chickens in the back yard? True story. We also met John, the other half of the team, who keeps the physical condition of the home up to par, but Saturday, he kept an eye on us during breakfast and made sure our coffee was topped off and that we were not in need of anything.

Vegetable from the garden that eventually became fresh salsa.

Vegetables from the garden that eventually became fresh salsa.

We went to the feis, spent a few hours at the music festival, and came back to find Valerie and John. We chatted a bit, and got recommendations for dinner.  I noticed fresh jars of plum jam Valerie had made because I had commented I hadn’t tried the peach since I had had an allergic reaction to peaches as a child. She told me she just happened to have plums that she needed to use anyway. Wow.

We returned after dinner to an empty house, so we all went outside to see the chicken, ducks and rabbits in the backyard. We must have spent 45 minutes out there and both the kids loved watching and taking pictures of the animals.

After our time outside we went in and sat in the parlor where TGC checked out the View-Master, a toy from my childhood, while TMC played the piano. Both kids were a little disappointed the jigsaw puzzle had already been completed, and my wife sat on the floor playing with an antique pinball machine. I just sat, and took it all in.

Other guests arrived and we all went outside to see about starting a fire in the fire pit. Thankfully Valerie and John soon returned, and shortly we were all gathered around a nice fire. John brought out beer and wine and we told stories, shared parenting tips, tried to get recipes out of Valerie and just relaxed. The kids hung out with us too, joining in the conversation occasionally. Thinking back, I hardly saw a cell phone come out of a pocket while we were out there.

Breakfast the next morning was basically a repeat of day 1. It started with strawberries and watermelon from the garden, and a warm slice of Depression Era Apple Pie topped with a slice of locally made cheddar cheese. TMC got his own gluten free mini version of the pie. Valerie had talked about how popular this pie was and even has classes just for making it, and she had shared a few of the ingredients around the fire the night before. It was wonderful, and I could taste the flavor layers she had talked about. That would have been enough for breakfast by itself, but that was not to be. Large plates of ‘breakfast bake’ (think of quiche on steroids, gluten free option was also available), fried potatoes, bacon, fresh salsa, and all the extras I listed on day one. Once again, my Mum would not be pleased as I sent back the plate with food still remaining. John kept us topped off with coffee and whatever else we needed, and both him and Valerie checked in on us while we ate.

This is either Larry, Moe or Curly, captured digitally by TMC.

This is either Larry, Moe or Curly, captured digitally by TMC.

After breakfast, the kids enjoyed watching the rabbits, chickens and ducks get the ‘scraps’ and we all laughed as the birds had a dessert of meal worms. And have you ever seen a rabbit hop off with a slice of toast in its mouth? Funny stuff, but not quite as funny as watching two chickens chase a moth. The kids took more pics, learned a little about the different types of birds from Valerie as she fed them, and TGC got a chance to pet the rabbits as they were being fed. TMC also got some pics of the deer that seemed to be ever present on the perimeter of the grounds, literally just yards away.

Shortly thereafter, we packed the car and TMC got that hug from Valerie he had wondered about on Friday night. We told them that we were making verbal reservations for next year for the feis and festival weekend, and after we bought some jam, we were on our way.

So why the long story? From the time we got there on Friday night, till the time we got home on Sunday night, the kids had about 20 minutes of TV. Sure, they had their phones, but a lot of the time when they had them out, they were taking pictures of animals, or people, or other cool things, and they weren’t constantly texting their friends or Facebooking. We all learned some history, facts about nature, how to enjoy the simple things like when us ‘grown ups’ were kids, and gained a new appreciation for basic, wholesome cooking, and we laughed and just enjoyed being a family. I think we will start waiting to long to make reservations more often, never know where it might lead.


Michigan (Muskegon) Feis 2013

The Michigan Feis was held on September 14th, 2013 at the Muskegon Catholic Central High School in Muskegon, Michigan.

This is the second review for this feis. To see last years review, look here.

Venue – This is the third time we have done a feis at Muskegon Catholic and unlike some of the other feiseanna located in schools, we like this feis.

There were 4 stages in different areas of the school, 2 in one gym, 1 in the auditorium on the schools auditorium stage, and the PC/OC stage in another gym at the far end of the school. If by chance you had dancers on stages 3 or 4 and one of the other stages, especially stage 1 (OC/PC) you probably did not enjoy the layout as much, since dances moved quickly and it was a few minute walk between the stages.

Stage size was excellent and as far as I could tell were about 32 x 32 feet each. Stages 3 and 4 were about 20 feet apart, so there was plenty of room around the stages and plenty of chairs for the dancers to wait for their dances.

I saw one fall, and I did not see any floor cleanup or mopping, but we were there only a short time and left before lunch, so there may have been stage maintenance done.

Seating in the gyms used the gym bleachers and seemed adequate. The auditorium used auditorium seating and was also fine. Camping was in the bleachers, and in the hallways, and although some of the halls got a little tight in spots, it wasn’t bad.

Results were down the hall, half way to stage 1, and awards were in the hallway at the front of the building, so that wasn’t as convenient as other feiseanna where they are right next to each other, but it wasn’t horrible.

Parking was adequate, but the lots near the door, as you would imagine, filled up quickly. We got their at 9ish and ended up parking around the building, and had a 5 minute walk to the front door. There was a drop zone where a parent and the dancer could be dropped off to avoid the walking.

Vendors were in the hallway between stages 3 and 4 at the front of the building, and stage 2 half way down the hallway to stage 1. There were only a few vendors and they tucked themselves up against the wall pretty well. George the shoe guy set up in a side hall, and didn’t block pedestrian flow at all.

Venue Score: 8  

Judges – The girl child danced 3 times and was judged by 1 judge. Not great but TGC rotated through all her dances REALLY fast, and I do not see how they could have rotated all stages that quickly.

If I knew all judges were completely objective, and used the same baseline to judge all comps, 1 judge would be OK. I do feel however, they should try to get at least 2 judges to see each age comp, so dancers have a more chances, even if the judging is unintentionally subjective. NOTE: I am not insinuating the judging at this feis was subjective.

Judge Score: 6.5

Music – Each stage had their own musician which is always the best way to do it. We are in the gym with stages 3 and 4, and from where I was sitting, there was a lot of music bleed over between the stages. I asked TGC what she thought and she said she had a hard time hearing the music on stage, and that the left was better than the right. She also said she saw the judge signaling that she could not hear very well.

Musician Score: 7

Food – Wasn’t there for lunch so I am not going to score this, but a cursory glance and it looked like the same set up as last year.

Food Score: NA

Vendors –  I only saw George from Ballinvilla, the hair stuff lady and the tshirt guy. This is the Irish Music Festival Feis though and there is LOTS of vendors if you go to the festival. A little lame for a feis though.

Vendor Score: 6 

Results – WOW! Best I have even seen. From the end of the dance to the wall, less than 10 minutes. For one, I would say it was around 5 minutes. It is a FeisWorx feis, but results were not posted there, although it really did not matter unless you didn’t want to walk down the hall.

Results Score: 10

Feis Flow – Excellent! We started dancing at 1115 and were done with 3 dances and had results in less than an hour. Age comps were kept together so there was only one or two dances between each of TGC’s dances. Moved really quick. Mix that with the quick results… outstanding.

Feis Flow Score: 10


Remember, scoring is in 2 parts, the feis score consisting of Judges, Music, Results and Flow and then the overall WTF rating for all items.

Feis Score – 8.375  (which really benefited from the results and flow scores).

And the WTF Rating – a 7.92

What did you think?

[poll id=”16″]

Great Lakes Feis 2013

image001The 11th Annual Great Lakes Feis was held on August 18th, 2013 at the Lansing Convention Center in Lansing, Michigan.

This is the third, fourth, ah who knows, time I have done the Great Lakes Feis. You can see last years review here but that was before I had scoring for each section of the feis, and just had an overall score.

Venue – The venue is great. The feis uses what I assume to be the biggest hall in the center and there is plenty of room.

There were six stages with numbers 1 and 2 at one end of the hall for OC and PC, and 3 – 6 more towards the other end for the other level dancers. The stages were huge compared to many feiseanna I have attended. The smallest I saw, if my visual measuring system is even close to accurate, was about 24′ x 28′, and the stage we were on was closer to 32′ x 32′. There was also good separation between the stages, on the order of tens of feet, if that makes sense, not a few feet or attached like other recent feiseanna.

I did see multiple slips and did not see any mopping during the day, so stage maintenance could have been a little better, but overall, stage condition seemed pretty good.

There were plenty of chairs for spectators and a good amount of room behind them for the standers.

There was more camping then there were campers, which is a unique experience at a feis. People were able to spread out which is not what they did, which struck me a bit odd. I don’t try to figure out what people are thinking at feis anymore.

Results and awards were at the far end of the hall, opposite end from the PC/OC stages, and were at tables right next to each other so it was all very convenient. The champs had a separate stage, still within the hall for their awards that was near their stages, and far enough away from the other stages so as not to be a distraction.

Parking was available at different garages near the venue, but this year we just left our car in the feis hotel parking, which was convenient considering the hotel was attached to the venue by an enclosed pedestrian walkway. I am afraid I cannot comment on the price of other parking in the area.

Vendors were grouped together in an area between the champ stages and the other stages which provided even more separation.

Venue Score: 9.5  

Judges – The girl child danced 3 times and was judged by 1 judge. Like the Milwaukee Feis last week, the dances were grouped very close together so rotation is limited… HOWEVER, in between the first two dances the judge on her stage changed and then changed back. The third dance was the first after lunch, and the same judge came back to the stage, which I think would have been a perfect switch time. I am really torn on this one because the same judge for all dances can be unfair to the dancers, but there is that whole ‘all close together’ thing, but there were opportunities. You can see the judge list here, although I did see judges working that are not on the list.

Judge Score: 6

Music – Each stage had their own musician and the stages were spaced far enough apart where music bleed over was not an issue.

An interesting sidebar – one musician, an older gentlemen who played the violin (or is it a fiddle?) stood the whole day while he played. I had not seen that. This however is the same guy who apparently came to the feis on a skateboard, so who I am to judge.

TGC did comment that the music on one of the stages she was not, on was ‘funner and kinda techno’ than the music she had, which begs the question, do they ever rotate musicians?

You can see who played here.

Musician Score: 10

Food – Convention center food at reasonable prices, $4 – $5 for a sandwich/burger, salads, pretzels etc… The popcorn chicken and fries were pretty good, I shared with TGC, so overall, not bad.

Food Score: 8

Vendors –  George the shoe guy was there, and two wig tables, which was good because we showed up first thing to get a new wig. NOTE: If you let your dancer dye her hair, consider the dance wig first!  Some nice souveniry type items, hats, shirts, etc, some jewelry, and the tshirt guy and a photographer. A nice little selection. View the vendors.

Vendor Score: 7.5 

Results – Mixed feelings on results. I was told they would be doing results electronically on QuickFeis but I did not see that being utilized during the actual event. The volunteers were taking pictures of the board and posting them on Facebook, but that was after they had already been posted (obviously). It wasn’t like a FeisWorx feis where they are posted in minutes, most times before they hit the results board in the hall.

Time to post on the wall varied, and appeared to be around 30 minutes for TGC’s first 2 dances, but it was closer to 45 – 6o minutes for her last result.

I did appreciate the fact that the awards table were able to print out the dancers score sheet with comments after their last dance had been posted. It is a nice touch that you can see what the judges had to say right away.

Results Score: 8

Feis Flow – Not too bad. We started at 11ish and had the last dance and results by 2. That would have been quicker had they not stopped for lunch when TGC had already checked in, and they went a little more than an hour for the lunch break.

I do like close dances even if it can affect judge rotation.

Feis Flow Score: 8


2 part system in place, the feis score consisting of Judges, Music, Results and Flow and then the overall WTF rating for all items.

Feis Score – 8 – could have been better if the judges rotated at least once.

And the WTF Rating – a 8.14. Good Job Great Lakes!

What did you think?

[poll id=”14″]