The 35th annual Delaware Feis sponsored by the Irish Culture Club of Delaware was held on Sunday, August 10th at St. Marks Catholic High School, Wilmington, DE.
Upon entering the campus the road brings you to to a massive parking lot. There will be a walk into the building from the parking area, but on a beautiful day (as it was this year) you won’t mind. If you need to drop off someone/something there is a room to do so. The High School is a modern building and boasts ample space. A huge field sits in front of the high school and is the perfect area to take pictures of your dancer.
Stages and Seating
Grades stages were run on on 5 different stages, with stages 1-2 sharing a musician, as did stages 3-4. Stage 5 had their own musician. Overall this worked out OK- if one stage still had to finish reels, then the dancers on the stage sharing the musician had to wait for Slip Jigs to begin. Not out of the ordinary. The stages were durable and not slippery, however they are very small. Fortunately the dancers lined up 2 at a time to dance. Still the older dancers complained about the size. I did see one stage line their dancers up 3 at a time- the dancers were in the 7-8 year old category but even for them the stages are too small for 3 at a time. Stage 5 was larger and they danced 3 at a time over there. Spectators must stand to view the dancers but there is ample seating for the dancers as they wait for their comp to begin
Dancers rotated through stages and danced for multiple judges. The ones I had the chance to observe appeared attentive. My dancer received comments for all 4 dances she participated in (though not the case with other families we know)
Mentioned above that some stages shared musicians. Overall the quality and volume of the sound was good. No complaints from the dancers that they couldn’t hear their music. This may not have been the case in 2013 (per reading a facebook post)
The spacious cafeteria is located on the second floor and this is where most of the food was served. The choices were limited- a meatball sub, hot dog, or roast beef, nachos with or without cheese. The meatball sub was very good and cost just a few dollars. There is a separate area to buy drinks- soda, water, sport drinks and milk was offered all for reasonable prices. Another table in the cafeteria featured pastries and coffee and finally, there was a station for BEER! Something about having to drive home prevented me from sampling……..Inside the cafeteria were plenty of tables and chairs to sit at and eat and the room was comfortable with the AC working well. The food line got long at one point because the stages had just taken their break for lunch, but the friendly volunteers got everyone served.
Coolers are not allowed, no outside food is allowed. They are very strict about this policy and there is absolutely no food or drink allowed in the gym where the dancing takes place.
For snack type foods-the first floor had stations that offered pretzels, candy, drinks and a variety of ice cream novelties. After lunch in the cafeteria, italian ice in 2 flavors- mango and lemon was offered for $1. After a day of feising my dancer and I thought it was delicious.
There was a good variety of vendor offerings from wigs, shoes and tshirts to novelty irish gifts and clothing. These were located on the first floor away from most of the stages
Stage 7 was in an auditorium (champs stage) and the entrance to that stage was near the vendors.
A beautiful day of cooperative weather made camping outside possible. Shade could be found in a variety of areas. Bring a blanket or chair if the weather is nice. Camping is discouraged inside the building.
Unless I missed something, I only saw ONE bathroom for each gender. Entirely unacceptable in my opinion. The bathroom only had 5 stalls which further complicated the long line.
The feis began on time and broke for lunch shortly before noon (Noon was the time listed on the syllabus for lunch breaks). I thought the flow was decent, my dancer completing soft shoe before the lunch break and ending hard shoe around 2:30, her comp was one the last to dance. In the past some dancers have had to change out of soft shoe to do one hard shoe dance, then change back into soft shoe. We didn’t experience that this year and neither did the families from our dance school.
A side note, this feis does not offer Set dances or a treble reel.
Awards and Results
Results were posted up in the cafeteria (2nd floor). The top 50% were given awards- some grade comps had over 30 in them (they do not split), still half received awards. If you have never been to this feis or seen the pics on their Facebook page, the trophies are HUGE and they feature an Irish Dancer on them! Boys receive trophies with male Irish dancers on them. The dancers faces light up when they have a trophy in hand. I will mention that 4th place awards are medals. I am not a fan of different type of awards- if you are “on the board” you should get the same award (unless you want to make the first place award larger). Numbers were indicated, not names. Results were fairly quick and movement through the line at in the trophy room (adjacent to results) was fast.
The volunteers were friendly and the staff running the stages were experienced and not afraid to give pep talks to the dancers before they went on stage. By pep talk, I mean encouragement. That’s nice to see in the grades level. Over the PA system throughout the day you could hear someone announcing a “last call” for comps. As long as you were in the gym you could hear this and I didn’t feel it was distracting to the dancers.
The Feis listed hotels in the area to stay at and they were no more than a 10 minute drive to the Venue. Plenty of restaurants (car was needed) to choose from.
The Delaware Feis has a Facebook page where they provided information before the feis and answered questions in a timely manner. There are a lot of photos on their FB page so check them out and see for yourself all of the happy dancers.
Overall Score 9.5
Despite the lack of ladies rooms (please speak up if you knew of other ones to use!), this is a feis worth attending. They are highly organized and offer great trophies. The area inside is spacious enough, and if the weather holds, the outside area is beautiful. This Feis parent will be back in 2015, won’t you join me?