Michigan (Muskegon) Feis 2014 Review, Grades

The 2014 Michigan Feis was held on September 13, 2014 at Muskegon Central Catholic High School in Muskegon, MI. This is the 2nd time we have attended this feis, and we have had a very pleasant experience here both times. This review is mainly aimed at the Grades experience at this feis.

Venue

The feis was held at Muskegon Central Catholic High School.

Parking was free, plentiful & close – which was a nice change from many other feiseanna we have attended recently!

Because this feis is associated with the Michigan Irish Music Festival, there was an admission fee for adults at the door (I believe it was $8/person), but dancers were admitted free. There was a bit of a bottleneck getting into the school because people were paying the admission fee, but those who checked in the night before at the feis hotel & got their admission wristbands paid for then were able to walk right in. We had not prepaid, but still waited less than 5 minutes to get in, which is quick compared to other feiseanna we’ve been to with a similar setup.

Registration and awards were right inside the entryway, and my dancer was checked in quickly and easily.
The feis had 4 stages this year – 3 for grades & 2 for PC/OC. The PC/OC stage was off on its own (and I never ventured over to see it, to be honest). Stage 2 was housed in the school’s auditorium, which made for a nice experience for the dancers on it – quiet, calm & out of the way. My dancer was on this stage when we attended in 2013 and really enjoyed it. The other 2 stages were in the gym, separated by a decent distance. All stages were of a reasonable size & the quality seemed great – I don’t think I saw a single fall on the 2 stages in the gym all day.

I really liked this setup, as I didn’t feel like I was crammed into a room with 1,000 of my closest friends (as I often do at feiseanna), but if you had dancers on multiple stages, it might have been difficult & tiring to run back & forth between them.

I did not check out the vendors, but I understand that George the shoe guy was there, along with a t-shirt vendor & a wig/bling vendor.

Restrooms were convenient & relatively clean. I never had to wait in line in the ladies room, which was nice.

There was no camping, but there was sufficient room for everyone’s gear at the stages. The auditorium was large enough to hold people & bags in the chairs provided, and the bleachers were adequate for everyone & everything in the gym.

Practice space was pretty much non-existent. There were signs up all over the place asking that dancers not dance on school floors. Dancers in the auditorium had some carpeted space at the back of the room that they could practice on, but the dancers in the gym were limited to a small corner.

Overall Venue Score: 8/10.

Judges

My dancer danced 6 times and was seen by 2 judges. That’s not overly great rotation in my opinion, but it is relatively typical for a feis run by level. My dancer’s judges seemed attentive & provided detailed & helpful comments, which we appreciate, as that doesn’t always happen.

Judge Score: 7/10

Music

On the grades stage in the auditorium, the music was great. The musician was excellent & there were no sound/tempo issues that I noted. On the 2 stages in the gym, one had a violin & one had an accordion. My dancer danced on both stages & said she had no issues hearing either musician & really didn’t note much bleed over between the stages (and she is usually the first to complain about issues with hearing music), but sitting in the bleachers, I could only hear the accordion. I did see one dancer on one stage start her traditional set dance at the wrong time, because the song was being played on the other stage as well. At one point, one of the judges stopped the dancing on his stage & had a discussion with the accordion player & a feis volunteer & then rearranged speakers so he could hear the music better, so at least there was a willingness to adjust things as needed.
My suggestion in this area would be for the feis to take a cue from the Missouri State Championships and use a single musician for both stages. It might slow things down a little bit, but it would eliminate the bleed over issue altogether.

Music Score: 7/10

Food

The feis had a concession stand with hot dogs, chips & other similar items. Not much variety or much of anything healthy, but prices were quite reasonable. More importantly, unlike most other feiseanna we attend, there was no restriction on bringing in your own food, so we didn’t even need to visit the concession stand. Volunteers even smiled at us as we walked in with our cooler & asked if they could share the Jimmy Johns sandwiches we brought with us, which was a nice change of pace!

Food Score: 8/10

Results/Awards

This is where this feis really sets itself apart from others, in my opinion. Instead of crowding around a wall where results are posted (although I believe they are posted on a wall somewhere too), you simply hand your number card to a volunteer at the awards table, who looks you up in the computer, prints out all your results (including comments & exact placements!) and hands you your awards.

We don’t check results until our dancer is finished with all her dances, so I don’t know how fast results were posted during the day, but she got in line to pick up awards within 10 minutes of finishing her dances & was able to get all her results immediately.

This year, the feis was also posting results online. I believe they were updated every 30 minutes or so, so it was probably faster to simply walk over to the awards table, but it did allow folks who weren’t able to attend the feis to see how friends had placed. My dancer was thrilled to receive a congratulatory text from a friend at home who saw her results.

Placements appeared to be generous – I am not sure of the exact formula, but it appeared to me that the feis placed either through 5th place or half the dancers, depending on level & the size of the group. I doubt many (if any) dancers went home empty handed, which I like – it’s nice to see the dancers have a little something to show for their hard work, in my opinion.

Medals were awarded for all grades placements, and trophies were given out for 1st place in Open Prizewinner. The medals were very nice quality & were unique – not your typical cookie cutter circle with a sticker slapped on. And best of all, they came with the ribbons already attached (other feiseanna, please take note – parents LOVE this!!!). The trophies were also nice quality – small, but well made.

Results/Awards Score: 10/10

Feis Flow

For grades, this feis was run by level, which meant people were in & out fairly quickly. My dancer had dances in novice & open/prizewinner both. She started dancing around 10:30, and we were done by 2:15, which included a fairly long lunch break.

One thing I found odd was that there was no timeframe given for the lunch break. When my dancer asked a stage monitor how long the break would be, the answer was “we’ll start again whenever the judge comes back”.

Volunteers did move dances from stage 3 to stage 4 (both in the gym) in order to keep the feis moving quickly. However, no announcement was made (at least not that I heard), and it was just luck that my dancer noticed that 2 of her dances had been moved. Clearer communication about that & about the length of the lunch break would have been nice.

Feis Flow Score: 8/10

Overall Score: 8/10 – Great job Michigan Feis!!!

This is one of our favorite feiseanna – we will definitely be back again next year!

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