The 3rd annual Clan na nGael SummerFeis was held at the Shamrock Club in Columbus, OH on July 12th, 2014.
First things first: this feis is outdoors. In Ohio. In July. This is not secret/privileged information. ;-) If the possibility of rain or humidity during a dance competition seems unappealing, this might not be the feis for you. However, if you are lover of all-things-summer, combined with all-things-Irish-dancing, this feis can be a fantastic experience.
This was the most organized feis committee we have encountered thus far. Communication via facebook was fantastic. The committee was upfront on both their website (http://www.clannnangael.org/summer-feis-2013/) and their facebook page about a $5 parking fee. In an age when some of us mostly carry plastic, I really appreciated knowing in advance that I would need paper money for parking. I’m not a fan of the surprise parking fee that leads me to wander around an unfamiliar city searching for an ATM. This feis filled very quickly and the committee was right on top of things, releasing stage assignments WEEKS before the feis. That deserves a shout out! Volunteers at the feis were friendly and very patient with those who were….weary (to be polite) from the humidity that day. The songs for the Treble Reel competition were also announced well in advance of the feis and divided up by age. Kudos to the committee for superior communication!
The posted costume rule was “No wigs or solo dresses” and there was a note about not allowing school letters or logos anywhere on costumes. They posted examples on their facebook page of acceptable casual costumes. However, their website features a Ceili team in school dresses and large wigs. ????? It seemed the costume “rules” were really just suggestions as I observed a grade level dancer in a wig and a school dress with her school letters boldly embroidered on the front of it. I was curious, so I looked up her number where scores were posted and she took home a lot of medals. So, if your teacher is hardcore about costumes and forbids you to compete in a feis requiring casual costume, come anyway. Ignoring this “rule” won’t hurt your scoring. Kind of odd to call so much attention to this rule but not enforce it, but it is what it is….but for those who followed the costume suggestions, this was feis was a breath of fresh air! No heavy, itchy dresses. No hot wigs. Just kids, who looked like kids, dancing freely and with a lot of joy.
This feis had a great outdoor space. There were several practice stages set up around the Shamrock Club (including some directly behind the performance tent). Camping was plentiful and there was very little opportunity for “feis shaming”, which was good as seating was at a minimum. There was a playground for restless siblings and lots of open space for running around.
The stages were VERY slick. This was in part due to the fact that the seating area was set up on top of very pretty, but very dusty, white stones. This made dancing shoes extremely slick and there were many slips and falls. In what I assume was an effort to keep the feis moving, the stages were not cleaned (that I observed) except at the beginning of the lunch break. I heard a mom, very nicely, approach some volunteers about this issue, but nothing was done. Hopefully next year they will put a tarp over the stones before setting up chairs. That would have made for a safer competition.
The venue offered an outdoor bar with televised viewing of the champion competitions, which were held indoors. The indoor space was VERY cramped. There were nice bathrooms in there and a nice little air-conditioned bar serving food, beverages, and offering more televised viewing of the champ competitions. But the key word here is “little.”
Judges and Musician–4
The low score reflects the quantity of judges and musicians, not the quality. This is one area where this feis needs some major improvements. I loved that this feis truly felt like an outdoor summer festival. However, this feis needs to move MUCH faster to accommodate the judges and dancers. There were exactly 2 stages, 2 judges, and 1 musician serving all grade level dancers. Shared musicianship always leads to a slow competition, no matter how amazing the stage monitors are. When one stage is unoccupied due another stage having a large, last group to finish up the reels of the feis, it slows things WAY down. I’m not “in the know” enough to understand why the shared musician is even a thing, but it’s obviously not uncommon.
Judge rotation was done by moving the dancers back and forth between the stages, but that simply meant for 6 dances my dancer saw only 2 judges. Not good. The judges were also very weary and did not even look refreshed when returning from lunch (which was a graciously short break). They often had their heads in their hands during the competition and who could blame them? They were dressed in professional attire on a very warm July day at a feis that ran much longer than necessary for such a small cap. Even those of us who love summer heat were feeling a little weary by lunch time. This feis seriously needs to add more stages, judges, and musicians just to accommodate its current cap.
There were some cool vendors at this feis and I, personally, loved the summery tshirt logo for this feis. (yep. “summery.” Remember, folks, you heard that word here first. J )There were some general Irish swag vendors and one who reminded me very much of a vendor you’d see at a County Fair offering random Irish and US swag (tshirts, sunglasses, etc.) on multiple tables under a tent. We were in need of hard shoes and were really disappointed there was not a shoe vendor available. In all fairness, there wasn’t a shoe vendor listed on the website, but we hoped that was an oversight. There were also no wigs or dance gear vendors, which was a big disappointment and hopefully next year the vendors will be geared more towards the dancers than the spectators.
Could not have been better in this category! There was a good variety of food, from healthy, homemade selections sold by Daughters of Erin, to a local BBQ joint, to a burger/hotdog stand (with very family-budget prices), and also food at the bar areas. A beverage stand was set up under the performance tent, which was great for hot, thirsty dancers. Prices were very reasonable, as well ($1 for bottled water, etc.). I wish more venues would use vendors who don’t charge stadium prices.
The speed of result posting was erratic. Some scores were posted within 10 minutes of the competition. Others took much longer. The feis was very good about getting things posted on feisworx and scores were often posted online before than they were on the results wall.
Feis Flow (see Judges and Musicians) –N/A
Much of this I addressed under “Judges and Musicians.” Comps were spread out according to age and grade level. Youngest to oldest, first feis through prizewinner. Trebel Reels were done during the judges’ lunch break, which was a nice use of time; even so, this feis moved much too slowly for such a small cap.
Overall Rating: 8
If you want to give this feis a try, be sure to bring chairs, lots of water, and a cooling towel for your dancer (available in sporting goods stores). See you next year, Summer Feis!