Feiseanna are fun, but they’re a heck of a lot of work. United Irish Counties is based in New York, but still many of the organizers of the United Irish Counties Feis, held on June 14, had to travel to Yonkers. It’s a weekend of early mornings and late nights. And not many breaks.
“The weekend is taken up,” said Maurice Landers, the co-chair of the UIC Feis. “You spend a good portion of Saturday setting up the five stages. There’s a lot of physical work – heavy lifting, to do.” The night before the Feis, Landers got home at 9pm. He was up the next morning at 5:30am to commute to Yonkers by 8am. But he doesn’t complain. “Everybody plays a role.”
Many people play various roles all day; some are not even sure how many roles they have.
“My title is secretary,” said Sheila Keady. “It’s hard to describe my job. I do all the stuff – spreadsheets and lists and Excel. I get the musicians and adjudicators. And I schedule events. There are so many details,” she said.
As she speaks, people constantly come up to question her, thank her, or say goodbye. By the end of the day, Keady can be a little frazzled from the frenzied environment.
The venue is crowded, as youngsters run around, change costumes, eat, dance, and play. It may look like chaos, but many of the old hands remark that it’s a highly organized feis. It’s “a testament to the efforts of the Feis committee and the UIC board and officers,” said Maurice Landers.
To run a feis takes a lot of work, and to run it well, even more. “I’m a slacker, I’ve only been here since 9am” Jim Mulvihill joked. Mulvihilll commanded the stage, making sure the dancers knew their marks. From Jackson Heights, Mulvihill is on the board of directors of the United Irish Counties and acts as a delegate for the Kerry Association. “Some people have been here much earlier than I was, to open the doors” – the doors opened at 8am.
The Feis went on without problems, due to the amount of work that everyone put in. But most important are the traditions upheld through dance and music. “Very few children are disappointed – they understand that not everyone will be a winner,” said Anne Garvey. “But if someone’s disappointed in their results, we try to highlight their participation. We encourage them to have a good time.”
United Irish Counties Feis secretary Sheila Keady hard at work