The 25th Annual Milwaukee Feis was held on August 9, 2014 at the Student Union at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The feis was run back to back with the McMenamin Feis, and so some aspects of this review apply to the review for the Sunday feis as well.
This is the 3rd year we have attended this feis, and we have always found it to be a pleasant experience. This year was no different, and we anticipate returning again next year as well.
The student union makes a nice home for a feis, with separate rooms for each stage, plenty of seating and areas to spread out away from the stages. There is ample practice room, plenty of accessible bathrooms, and lots of food options for hungry dancers (and their families).
Street parking was available (we had to walk 2-3 blocks to be sure we were not in a restricted area on Saturday – Sunday we were able to park closer), and there was also parking available at the student union for a small fee (I believe under $10 for the day).
Registration and awards were on the first floor of the building as you walked in. Volunteers got my dancer registered & on her way quickly & even gave her a quarter for good luck!
The feis had 6 stages this year, plus a room for music competitions. 2 stages were PC/OC and 4 stages were grades. The stages were spread between the 2nd and 3rd floors, so there was a minimum of one flight of stairs to walk up & if you had more than one dancer, you might have been running up & down the stairs a lot during the day. I am sure elevators were available, but I never bothered looking, to be honest.
Vendors and used dress racks were in the hallway on the 2nd floor, with the exception of the t-shirt vendor who was on the 1st floor next to awards. We don’t spend a whole lot of time at the vendor tables (although we did purchase an Irish-themed t-shirt for the dancer’s brother as a reward for not complaining too much about the noise from all the hard shoes!), but the vendors seemed adequate. Balinvilla was there, as was A Touch of Ireland, and Photography By Harrington, among others.
Camping was available, but in areas away from the stages. We found camping locations both days with no problem, but did have a bit of a walk from our camp location to the stage.
Plenty of seating was available at all stages (including lots of comfy chairs at my dancer’s stage, where even the dancer’s brother was able to make himself comfortable to enjoy the treble reel!), but as is unfortunately typical, there was a fair amount of feis shaming going on.
Overall Venue Score: 9/10.
My dancer danced 6 times and was only seen by 2 judges, and one of those judges saw her for 4 dances. This is the one area I think this feis could improve on – I think more judge rotation is needed. Because this feis is run by age & by dance, I realize that dances are close together, but I still think another rotation of judges could have been accommodated.
Judge Score: 7/10
Our musician was fantastic! I never even noticed her take a bathroom break! The setup of this feis, with one stage to a room really helps eliminate the “bleed” that you get from other stages at some feiseanna & makes it easy for the dancers to hear the music.
Music Score: 10/10
The 2nd floor of the student union is home to a food court. Over the 2 days, our family dined on sub sandwiches, Burger King burgers, Chinese, Taco Bell, and more. Options were plentiful, and prices were not horrible. Healthy options (including smoothies, wraps, salads, etc.) were available, and ice cream (whether for celebration or consolation) was also an option. I did not see any kind of prohibition on bringing your own food into this venue, either, as is often the case at Mid America feiseanna, which was a nice change.
Food Score: 10/10
Results were lightning fast and were also posted on Feisworx real time. We wait until our dancer is done with all her dances before checking any results, so I don’t know how long individual dances were taking to come out, but my dancer’s results were all complete & posted 5 minutes after she finished her last dance.
As the parent of a young Open dancer (where, as you all know, the competition is tough, and placement sometimes seems arbitrary, and it’s very easy for a child to go home without so much as a single ribbon as a reminder of their hard work & effort), I really appreciate feiseanna who provide generous placements/awards. So we really love that the Milwaukee Feis places a minimum of 50% in every competition. Medals were awarded for 1st-3rd place, and ribbons after that. The medals were on the smaller side, but were nice quality, and the ribbons seemed well made too. Like most Mid-America feiseanna, medals came without ribbons, but that would be my only complaint.
Results/Awards Score: 9/10
For grades, this feis was run by age & dance, with U11 & younger in the morning and U12 & up in the afternoon. Our dancer started dancing around 9:45 and was done with her 6 dances by 12:15, which is excellent in my book. If you had dancers in both U11 & over 12, then your day would have been longer, however, so I could see that this would be a drawback for families with multiple dancers, but I & my lone dancer love this format!
Feis Flow Score: 9/10
Overall Score: 9/10
Great job, Milwaukee Feis!!