"Feis Dad" Brian Hinton with his daugther, Haley

Irish dancing feiseanna at first appear to be highly feminine occasions.

When scanning the field at this past Sunday’s Hartford Feis, you see dresses, flashings sequin, girls, moms and the occasional boy.

If you look a little harder, though, you might spot a dad. And in fact, feis dads are not as rare as you might think.

Feiseanna, and especially the outdoorsy Hartford Feis, are family occasions that go beyond gender. Many dads like to support their children, and they enjoy the atmosphere of the feis too.

KC Jones is one. “I enjoy the music. I enjoy seeing the different dance styles,” he says, as his daughter Shannon gets ready to compete in the background.

“I like the choreography and I like spending time with my daughter.”

Feises are perhaps more a “mother thing” than an event for dads, he says, but still, “a lot of fathers participate.”

Brian Hinton, from Connecticut, is another enthusiastic feis dad.

“We probably go to about six to 10 per year, and I go to at least half, depending on my schedule,” he says, explaining that he and his wife run a business together, and they balance the feiseanna with their schedules. Their daughter Hayley Hinton is 12.

Feiseanna are not solely a female sphere, Hinton says. “I think it’s a family-atmosphere thing.”

David Candelori has two daughters who dance, Claire and Ann-Katherine. With both competing, the feiseanna would be too much for his wife to handle alone.

“Because we have two girls my wife needs a second pair of hands,” he says. “And even if she didn’t, I like to watch. I think they’re both beautiful dancers.”

Last year’s Oireachtas was a highlight for David Candelori because his older daughter qualified and placed in the competition. “It was a big event for her. At the prize-giving ceremony there were 800 to 1,000 people in the ballroom, screaming wildly. It was exciting.”

Wendall Turpin is a feis dad married to an Irish dancing teacher. His ancestry is part-Cherokee, part-English, and although he has no Irish background himself, he loves Irish culture and music.

He’s proud of his daughter, Kayla, who is 9 and in the preliminary section, and is, he says, a “champion dancer.”

Turpin has his own particular take on the contests. “A lot of dads say, ‘I can’t believe you go to all the feises,’ but I figure, I have two choices – complain, or get involved!”

Turpin loves giving pep talks to kids before they dance, but there he draws the line. “I’ve even seen some feis dads put on the girls wigs. I’m not ready for that level yet,” he jokes.