Irish Arts was the first feis we ever attended -- just to see what a feis was like, not to compete -- lo, these many years ago. And it seemed like absolute mayhem. And that's sort of been the theme of this feis annually.
This year's feis was better than I expected. Of course, my expectations were incredibly low -- I dread this event every year. Weaving through the narrow corridors of the hotel to get from room to room, some sort of hold up in the results area that leaves us waiting around at the end of the day, always-surprising results. Plus this year it was the same weekend as the St. Louis Mardi Gras parade (largest in the U.S. after New Orleans) so bonus drunks wandering around downtown taking up all the decent parking spots.
Over the years the people who put this on have made some improvements. They no longer require people to purchase wristbands and show them every time they enter a ballroom to watch a competition. Given that the feis takes place in 3 separate ballrooms of the Ballpark Hilton, this was a good move on their part. Now they simply charge a family fee when you sign up. I'd like to think that all the complaining we did helped them in their decision. Who knows.
The feis started late. They forgot to have one of the ceili competitions, and had to have it after they started the solos. A kid threw up on stage, so that gave us all a delay-of-feis -- AnnaBeth's competition was lined up on the adjoining stage, and the kids just stood there the entire time, waiting for the volunteers to get it all cleaned up. AnnaBeth said her feet had gone numb from standing there so long by the time she got to dance. Someone on Thalia's stage totally lost their wig -- it ended up blobbed in the middle of the stage.
Gratuitous wig shot. None of these wigs fell off. As a matter of fact, these 3 kids were on the sidelines at Oireachtas 2009 when the wig of someone onstage started coming undone, which made a lasting impression on all of us.
People fell over, one of the girls apparently blanked out during her dance and just stopped dancing (AnnaBeth was supposed to dance right after her, and I could see it really shook HER up, too, especially since it was a friend ... the girl went on to get first place in the next competition, so obviously she got over it). Lots of exciting stuff.
Thalia observed that they actually swung a competition from a backed-up stage to an empty stage to speed things along. They also skipped a formal lunch break to make up for lost time. We were impressed that this group had this much flexibility of thinking to come up with these solutions to a late-running feis. (I realize that plenty of feisseanna deal with similar things in this way all the time, but we're talking about a historical record of poor management decisions here, so it was impressive in this context.)
Where they could make their next big improvement is in the awards. They had loose sheets of paper all over the tables, and when the kids went up to claim their award the volunteers shuffled through all the sheets looking for the correct competition so they could check off the correct name. Yikes, what a nightmare. Given that the results compilation was done by Feisworx, why not use Feisworx' uber-cool computerized system, where the dancer simply shows their number, the volunteer enters it into a computer, all the appropriate awards pop up on the screen, the medals are distributed within seconds. As it was, we finished dancing around 3pm (dancing in the grades) and were finally on our way home closer to 4pm.
As for our personal results, eh. This feis has always been a crapshoot as far as our results are concerned -- Thalia's best score ever here was in a dance she had totally messed up, while friends who danced wonderfully were passed up for seemingly mediocre dancers. (Okay, actually that sort of thing isn't limited to this particular feis -- it happens all the time everywhere -- but for some reason we notice it more here.) Overall, it's an in-town feis that we do simply because it's in town. Not the worst we've ever been to, but not the best.