Feis vendor Mary Ann King has been in this game for a decade. Her store, Claddagh Gifts is based on Mill Valley, CA, but Mary Ann goes mobile too, bringing the best of her loot around to the Feises in Southern California. Selling jewelry, hats, capes, and all things Irish, Mary Ann is no stranger to the Feis scene.
"I've been a Feis vendor for about 10 years" she says. With Irish parents, an Irish husband, and three former Irish dancer sons, Mary enjoys the Irish culture being kept alive. However, she fears for the future of Irish dance.
Sitting in an empty hall at The Golden State Feis, Mary Ann remembers the very same feis four years ago. "There would have been over twice the amount of dancers here, and you could barely get through this hall," she says. "The numbers have just continued to go down over the past number of years," she said.
She says it's a double whammy from the economy and the post-Riverdance slump.
"Riverdance made Irish dance go ballistic," she says. "Now though, there needs to be another Riverdance, or something like it, to get more kids dancing."
Mary Ann worries for her fellow vendors who need to make a living and provide for families. "I'm at a stage in my life where it's a very social occasion for me. I really like the kids that dance, and I get to know them all and their parents," she says.
Mary Ann has seen Irish dance evolve, from the dresses to the dancers. "It's no longer just the freckly Irish kids who do it," she says, referring to the wonderful diversity in Irish dance.
King intends to follow the local Feis and sell her merchandise "as long as they're on," she says, "but if this is anything to go by, things aren't looking good," she says.