Feis Na Tara, Grades 2015 Feis Review

e0a4210058da1cb28f5b092e3b8bce4dThe, possibly, 20th anniversary Feis Na Tara was held February 27-28, 2015. The feis was held at the Marriott Atlanta Airport. This feis holds competitions on Friday night and all day Saturday. The Devil Went Down to Georgia treble reel is a popular event for all ages. These are held on Friday night. This year, the proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior fund. This feis also offers competitions in Celtic Art, Music, Vocals, Gaelic, and Baking. These are in addition to the grades, championships, and figure competitions.

If the stars fell on Alabama, then the stardust fell on Georgia. Or at least the glitter. This feis is an excellent example of the shiny, glittery, happy feis world of the Southern Region. This was a very shiny feis. This was seen in the many different crystal awards on Friday night to the lovely crystal prizes awarded to the champs. Also, the Southern Region has a reputation for bling. From the grades to the champs, there were many shiny, happy dancers. (Some of them even held hands.)

Venue

If the devil really did go down to this Georgia feis, he certainly did not bring the heat! This proved to be a cold venue. It is also hotel feis. Some readers may already know that the Wilkes family doesn’t particularly care for those. This feis is a good example of why. Crowded rooms, tight hallways, odd lighting, and many different rooms to navigate. Southern hotel feisanna also tend to become Sardine Can Feisanna. At least in the Grades room, this was no exception. You could also have called the grades stages Sardine Can Competitions. (See also Stages)
The hotel rooms were reasonably priced. While we did not hear the airplanes, we did hear many of our neighbors. The hotel was packed. So, while Mr. WTFeis had a quiet experience, our hallway was much noisier. Thankfully, we were able to play classical music to soothe a couple of our darlings to sleep. By the time the youngest darlings were asleep, the hallway and adjacent room noise had settled down to a dull roar.

5 out of 10

Parking

Again, I am very glad to know that Mr. WTFeis was able to secure the most inexpensive parking option. When we arrived, self parking was no longer an option for hotel guests. So, Ash Wilkes paid the $20 valet fee. Since there are no nearby restaurants or shops, we did not have extra expenses with tips to get the car in or out.

4 out of 10

Stages

Southern Sardine Can Stages. Perhaps the Southern Sausage Stages would be more appropriate. Either way, the grades stages were ran like a conveyor belt. They packed them into their competition lines. Then, they were slid across the 3 stages for the soft shoe competitions. It was obvious that this method was confusing to the beginners. There were several missed starts, misunderstandings, and re-dances in the beginners competitions. The older, experienced grades dancers handled this schedule very well. My guess is that many of them had experienced it before. This is our 2nd year at the grades stage of this feis. So, while we knew what to expect, our youngest little darling was extremely confused. They were also very tired at the end of their dances.

The stages were about 2″ off the ground. Treble Koted plywood, screwed onto the supports. The crowds on the stages and the crowds in the grades room made viewing difficult. Also, the chairs go to the early attendees. You cannot arrive at 7:55am and expect to find a seat in the grades room. Also, if you plan to attend the Peach State Feis, the same is also true. Most of the chairs were filled by 7:30am, with the remainders being completely taken by 7:45am.

4 out of 10

Feis Flow

The feis volunteers are truly amazing at this feis. The Mulligan School is relatively small. But, they know how to hold a big feis. There is also much love and appreciation between the school TCRG and the families of the school. This was shown in the opening ceremony of the feis. Bag pipes, instrumental trio, banners, and presentations showed how much the members of the school enjoy the journey of Irish Dance.

The stage monitors were extremely helpful and polite. They did everything in their power to help everyone in attendance enjoy the feis. I did not see the radios used at some other events. But, they seemed to be well informed and connected.

Having figures on only 2 stages caused the feis to start S.L.O.W.L.Y on all counts. Also, please see Music and Stages. Those challenges also caused the grades stages to run less than efficiently. My suggestion would be to hold the 8 hands on the champs stage. The 2, 3, and 4 hands could continue to be held on the grades stages. All of the 8 hands were older dancers. Many of them were upper level grades and champ level dancers. The rooms at this venue are also fairly close together. So, it would free up the grades stages more quickly. These ran slowly based on several other factors. It would not increase the amount of time spent waiting in the Champs room. It may decrease it.

5 out of 10

Music

Friday night Adult and Treble Reel competitions were done with canned music. Saturday, the grades stages were accompanied by a violinist. While talented, it was difficult for one light stringed instrument to accompany 3 stages. Also, a delay on one stage created holds on the other stages. Some of the competitions had 20 or more dancers. Others held only a handful. The Wilkes family certainly missed hearing the blessed accordion. If a violin is to be the instrument of choice next year, I would recommend a duet. With a room and stages in their current set up, the back beat/bass notes are lost. An additional instrument would assist in keeping those lower notes heard. These are especially important, in our opinion, in the treble jigs and hornpipes.

4 out of 10

Judges

There is one distinct benefit to the conveyor belt style stage system. Guaranteed judge rotation. While this is, in part determined by the number of competitions, all of our darlings had at least 3 different judges for their competitions. Not the perfect different judge for each dance scenario. But, it is much better than the last two feisanna we have attended, with a single judge for all competitions.

8 out of 10

Social Media

This is not a social media feis. It does not have a Facebook page. They have received a 2 instead of a 0, because they are excellent in returning phone calls and emails. There is certainly potential for this to become a more Social Media friendly feis. Especially with several of their school champs potentially handling those posts/announcements.

2 out of 10

Feis Food

As there were a couple of coffee stands available, Ash Wilkes was able to have his pre Feis coffee. He also had his mid Feis coffee. And his post Feis coffee. Also, the lines were not long at the hotel Sbux. So, from that stand point alone, it was an excellent feis food venue. We did not wait in the lines at the venue food counters. Our family only purchased the breakfast buffet at the hotel. Service was attentive and polite. The prices were in line with what we have experienced in our travels. We did NOT eat dinner or purchase drinks. So, please see the Champs Review for that information.

10 out of 10

Vendors

The Wilkes family were most pleased to see Unique Engraving at this feis. Not only did the company create lovely trophies for the feis. They also brought their engraving machines, medal stands, and medal ribbon selection. Feis Na Tara boasts of more than a dozen perpetual trophies. They also award several wooden plaques to different competitions. All of these can be engraved at the feis by Unique Engraving.

There were also

  • Feis shirts
  • Dance shoes/socks
  • Hair bobs/wigs/bling
  • Züca sales and accessories
  • European candies/snacks/drinks

10 out of 10

Awards

It is a somewhat expected regional occurrence to receive the medal without the neck ribbon. King O Sullivan, Feis Na Tara, Little Rock, and River Valley Feis all give medals without ribbons. Unique Engraving is usually present at these feisanna. They sell many different types/colors of medal ribbons and holders. Some families anticipate this occurrence, and bring their own medal ribbons from home.

That being said, the trophies were nicer this year, than in years past. Prizewinner First Place received a 12″ trophy and a small crystal gem. Remaining Prizewinner placements also received trophies. Novice, and below, received medals. We saw several families purchasing medal stands, to turn their awards into trophies. In the treble reels, everyone received a crystal gift, before the awards placements were announced. The Wilkes family appreciates these participation gifts. There are several children in the Southern Region who feis with medical challenges. These children do not often place as frequently in their dances as their more healthy competitors. Several of these families are friends of ours. A few of them enter the extra competitions, in order for those medically challenged dancers have an opportunity to shine. So, while others may speak derisively against such things, the Wilkes family applauds them!

10 out of 10

Thank you, Feis Na Tara, for ensuring that all participants have the opportunity to dance their best and take home a prize. The Wilkes family enjoyed this feis. We hope to return next year.

Overall Score – 6 out of 10

What did you think?

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