Feis ATL was held November 14th and 15th of 2014, at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. This was a Drake feis, which means fun, fabulous, chaotic, and crowded. The feis offered competitions in musical instruments, vocals, Celtic art work, baking, traditional and non traditional sets, treble reels, and a Dancer of the Day award, in addition to the regular feis competition schedule.
In the tradition of fun and fabulous, this feis offered some unexpected surprises. Friday night, there was a casual Irish music session in the registration hall. On Saturday, the FROZEN princesses made appearances and lead a pre awards show sing-a-long. On Saturday night, they held a post feis luau at the hotel pool for feis attendees.
This was a hotel feis. As most readers know, I am not a fan of the hotel feis. This location is no exception to that dislike. Although the building did receive the vomitus mass of people attending the feis, it did nothing to organize them. The hotel is currently undergoing renovations. So, it was challenging to attend. From parking to conference room location, the construction chaos only added to the usual feis chaos. The hotel did have helpful staff, when you could find them. The bathrooms were kept clean and were not overcrowded. The hallways were large and spacious throughout. This allowed for movement between stages, even with any available wall space being crowded with bags, personal items, small siblings, etc. Camping, as it is known in the Mid America and other regions, does not take place in the majority of Southern Region feisanna. The feis did an excellent job marking the awards room and decorating the registration booth. At least those spaces were the easiest for us to find.
5 out of 10
Welcome to downtown Atlanta! Parking is plentiful and expensive. If you did not mind a chilly 6 block walk, you could park for $3 a day. To park at the feis, it was $12 a day. The feis did offer attendees a special parking rate. If you forgot to mention you were there for the feis, it was a whopping $28 per day. Also, the parking deck at the hotel filled quickly. Some people were upset to learn of there being no elevator to the highest deck level. Can you imagine lugging all that gear down the steps to the nearest elevator for a luggage cart? We can’t either. So, we suggest an earlier arrival next year, for a prime parking deck location. In a perfect world, out of town arrival to Atlanta should take place between 10 am and 2:30pm EST. Also, avoid the 75/85 merge at all costs.
5 out of 10
Why so high? The accordion, that’s why. Every stage, we watched, had a blessed, talented, accordionist playing accompaniment. Was there music carry over? Very little. The stages were so spaced out, you only heard the other stages music if you were close to a doorway.
10 out of 10
The hotel cafe was close to $4 for a cup of coffee. When the feis had the hotel set up coffee in the vendor hall, it was $2 a cup. Any feis where Ash Wilkes can get his feis coffee is a good one. Of course, the remainder of the hotel cafe options were Disney FROZEN expensive. $5 for a parfait. $3.50 for a frozen pizza sized slice of pizza. $9 for chicken fingers and fries. It was a very chilly walk for anyone to find outside options. A sub shop was close by. Many families sent Feis Dads out on sub runs.
4 out of 10
The feis had a good selection of vendors. The down side was that they did not stay open through the conclusion of the feis. So, if you wanted to buy a t-shirt or sock glue after the awards ceremony, too bad. They had closed up shop hours before hand. Also, no Cadbury bars. Sniff. Sniff.
- Züca sales
- Feis shirts
- Irish, Celtic, and Feis themed items
- Photo crystal dancers gifts/Speakers
6 out of 10
Heard of being on Southern time? This feis ran on Southern Irish Feis Time. So. Hope everyone was able to find the punch in the lobby, because you had a wait on your hands. From the time of competition to the time of results posting was an hour or more in most cases. The average we worked out was 45 minutes. The results were quick to post at the start of the day, but really lagged as the day went on. We saw dancers camped under their results papers for them to post, so that they could go home. See also Feis Flow.
3 out of 10
This was a Drake feis, remember? The fabulous part certainly comes in at the awards. No dinky trinkets here. Medals, with neck ribbons were awarded to all grades with a posted result. So, even if your little prince or princess won 5th out of 15, they went home with a medal around their neck. Prizewinner, and above, received trophies. The star with the Feis ATL logo decorated most of them. Again, even with a 5th place out of 15 in traditional set, the dancer went home with a trophy. Championship competitions had recalls posted. Their awards were given at a ceremony, after the feis competitions ended. Everyone on stage received a trophy. First place Open Champs recived a sash, Olaf stuffie, trophy, and a CHAMPION emblazoned scarf. Some second and third place winners were also given the CHAMPION scarves. Only Open Champs received the sashes for first place. The awards ceremony was a great lead up to the Southern Region Oireachtas. Sound system, projection screen, podium with five placements, music, ambient lighting, and pre show FROZEN sing along. (Alright, so the last part was at least fun for the kids who were waiting…now, let it go.) of course, the awards ceremony did not finish until 8pm. But, like I said, it was a great lead up to the Southern Region Oireachtas. Midnight award ceremony conclusions, anyone?
10 out of 10
This is one area of the feis where many people were displeased. Three of our four little darlings had ZERO judge rotation. That’s right. The same judge for every. single. dance. In one case, it worked to their advantage. In the other two cases, it did not. Our youngest darling had some judge rotation. One judge for two dances, then a different judge/different stage for the other two dances. At a perfect feis, there would be a different judge for each dance. The opposite was true at this feis. With over 850 competitors, there was an enormous push for speed on the stages. They did everything but add a conveyor belt to the stage floor. See also Feis Flow.
3 out of 10
They billed this feis as the FROZEN feis. Considering the weather, and the open exterior doors in the vendors area, we think they succeeded in making everyone FROZEN on Friday night. Thankfully, they also had a warm Irish music session occurring away from the open exterior doors by registration. With more than 850 competitors, along with their various friends and relations, the body heat generated helped to warm the competition halls on Saturday. Keeping the exterior doors closed helped, too.
The feis volunteers were working hard from 7am until 9pm on feis day. That being said, it appeared to be the same 20 or so people the entire day. Stages were only marked by the stage side podium. That information was not up until almost 8am. Of course, if you bought the unadvertised on eFeis $5 feis book, a map was included. The stages were also at one end of cavernous conference halls. Most of them were set up long ways, so that there were plenty of chairs. But only the first ten rows of people could see anything. Also, some of the stage rooms were extremely crowded. The preliminary championship stage was overrun with dancers, friends, and relations until after 2pm. The stages that ran quickly were “rewarded” by having more competitions shifted over to them. This movement created flow mayhem, as dancers and their entourage were scrambling to find the new stage location and seats for the competitions. The awards ceremony for the championship dancers occurred after the final competition ended for the day. The ceremony was a bit chaotic, as many of the later competition recall lists were posted in the middle of the ceremony.
When the feis completed on Saturday night, there was a luau for feis attendees at the hotel pool. Snacks, finger foods, and a cash bar made for an excellent end to a busy feis day.
We stayed onsite so parking was easy. Loved so much about this Feis. Improvements would be communication: program only preorder, luau only word of mouth or program. Had no idea about it and sad to miss it, signage seriously lacking. Frozen touches helped siblings enjoy! I would definitely go again!
I was disappointed they moved this feis from the traditional Marriott Marquis. (Please move it back next year, Drake!) I heard they moved it expecting low-ish numbers and then couldn’t move it back once registrations ballooned (but that’s only a rumor.) Not sure why they didn’t cap it though since the venue was smaller. In Prizewinner the dancers were playing bumper cars on tiny stages. In one case, the judge even made the dancers dance only on one half of the stage even though the other half was empty for the entire event. By the time the nontrad rolled around, you could hear the jubilation when the judge allowed the dancers to use the full stage. There was a lot to love about both ATL and Hotlanta (on Sunday) but the tiny stages were certainly not in that list.