The McGrath Feis was held on April 19th, 2015 at the CD Hylton High School In Woodbridge, VA.
This is a Community Review with comments by the attendees. If you attended please add your thoughts below.
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Overall very pleased with this feis venue and run very smoothly. Daughter danced in AdvBeg and Novice. Results up quickly and we were done by 12:30! Good vendors, fair food, plenty of parking. That said my critiques are 1. Daughter had the Same judge for all but 1 dance: wish they had rotated. 2. No comments on ANY of her dances. Even so we enjoyed the day and will be back next year.
Venue: The McGrath Feis was a typical high school venue. There was ample parking for even the largest of RVs (seriously, there were two motor bus RVs there). The overall layout was quite nice. Plenty of room to camp and a large common area in the middle of everything with plenty of lunch room style seating. Dances were held in three separate areas with all graded dances being in the gym right off the common area using six stages. One dance area was in the auditorium and the third was in a back cafeteria, both of which (i believe) were for OC dancers. Everything was fairly close by, so no excessive walking around needed.
Judges: When the schedule was first posted, I was a bit concerned about judging since one of my three had all four of her dances on the same stage while the second flip-flopped between two stages. Marian Spencer Savage (who handled the Facebook posts) ensured us that judges would be rotated and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t after each dance type, but they switched between the soft shoe and hard shoe dances, so most dancers were judged by two different judges (albeit, some judging wound up being split 2 and 2 and others had 3 and 1, if you get what I mean).
Musicians: All of my dancers were in the gym since I have two at prizewinner and one at prelim. Six stages in this area sharing three musicians – two stages per. Since everything was in such close quarters (think high school gym), things had a tendency to bog down once in a while as we waited for one stage to finish a dance type – nothing excessive, mind you. The sound system for each musician was a single speaker facing toward the dancers, so it did not seem like they had difficulty hearing their songs.
Food: Standard feis food. Yhey had a nice little bake sale going on throughout the day and one concession stand with hot dog, hamburgers, sodas, etc. I was a bit concerned when I saw how small it was since I figured everyone would make a bee-line for it when they broke for lunch, but the lines never really got excessively long for extended periods of time. They had coffee brewing all day, so BONUS FOR ME!!!
Vendors: vendors were nicely placed along the walls in the common area. Standard feis things. Not much to report here.
Results: Results were AWESOME!!!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen score posted as quickly. Everything was computer printed and easily readable and posted on the wall just outside the gym. The only critique I would give is that they need to increase the spacing between each page. They awarded six places (which was nice :) ), but the sheets got kinda long on some of them and covered the score beneath. McGrath also had all scores posted to Feisworx that evening, so super awesome job there.
Feis Flow: Overal flow was good, but as mentioned before, there were a few delays because some stages needed to wait before the musicians could start the next type of song. Nothing that I thought detracted from the excellent experience. Not too many crowds stage-side either since the bleachers were open and you could easily see all dances. The only drawback to such a small gym was having to walk completely around every stage to get to the other side. As I said, my one daughter flip-flopped between two stages. Unfortunately, those stages were on opposite sides of the gym. So, dance one dance… head over to the other side to for the next dance… then back to the other side for the third (the shoe change was a bit traumatic)…. then back again for the fourth. Minor inconvenience more than anything else.
Awards: Awards were done nicely. Graded dances were awarded plaques and medals while prelim and OC received sashes and trophies. I hope next year they can find a better place for the podium though. Prelim/OC awards were done in the front foyer, so there was not a lot of room for happy snaps, especially when you get so many dancers crowded in a small area.
Whatever else would be helpful to someone else: This was a social media friendly feis, which I like. Information was regularly updated on Facebook and Twitter and any questions were immediately answered. Info was also available on twitter. They didn’t really make much active use of either platform during the feis through. But frankly, it wasn’t really necessary since everything was in close proximity and we weren’t waiting around for things to happen (like score posting).
Overall, this was a fabulous feis.
Venue: Great improvement over last year. Easy to get from area to area as the gym (grades) and the auditorium (champs) were off a large common area. Vendors were around the edge of that. Plenty of seating to watch in both auditorium and gym. Parking lot was huge. Plenty of bathrooms. Going into one the girls rooms was awesome as I discovered no lines and 8 stalls. :) Things were restocked during the day.
A practice area with Marley down would have been a good idea as people were practicing in all sorts of places and leaving scuff marks on the floor. oops. There was a large auxiliary gym which would have been an excellent location for that (people were practicing in there anyway)
Judges: all my dances were on two adjacent stages, judges switched occasionally, so 4 dances with 2 dances with each judge. Got comments from both, though I heard some dancers on other stages got no comments.
Musicians: they increased musicians this year which was a huge improvement over last year. It was initially a little hard to hear our musician while dancing, but I let the stage manager know and she talked to the musician who adjusted the volume. :)
Results: grades results were easy to check as they were near the common area. Went up pretty quickly.
Feis flow: Other than champ awards crowding one area and blocking the hall way when they were being announced, I thought this feis had really good flow. Easy to get to all areas, no long walks, good camping area as well as lots of seating and places to park your stuff without getting in peoples way. Had “not before times” on the stage schedule, but a lot of people I talked to thought that was when it was supposed to start and seemed a little upset that they were “running late”. I had done the feis math and found the feis to run pretty much on schedule. 4/6 grades stages were done by lunch. 2 stages had to finish up hard shoe after lunch.
Awards: Grades received plaques which was a nice change. Notices some champs walking around with some nice looking sashes.
I was a prelim champ dancer at this feis, and I did not feel that it ran smoothly at all. The schedule marked my competition as “not before 1:00” which was not enough information, as I arrived in time to dance at 1PM but was not actually called to dance until about 4PM. Our prelim competitions were awkwardly crammed on the gymnasium stages after all of the grade levels were complete, so by the time we danced, the judges were exhausted, and nothing was being taken seriously anymore. The stagehands were clearly not trained at all and had no experience running a feis, and it was just a very long, exhausting day of waiting. I do not understand why my prelims were placed in the gym, while most of the championship competitions were in the auditorium and ran smoothly. Additionally, because our competition ran so late, the practice floor was closed before I danced, so I could not warm up before going on stage.
Prior to my traditional set, the judge who was judging our competition approached us and spoke to us. She asked for personal information about my fellow competitor and was being very unprofessional. It was impossible to take that competition seriously because of the chaos.