The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) is sponsoring their 45th Annual Nassau County Feis on Sunday, September 17, 2017 at Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach, Long Island. “Feis” (pronounced “Fesh”) is an Irish word for a festival celebrating many aspects of Irish culture. In recent years that term has become increasingly associated with indoor events limited to Irish stepdancing competitions.
The Nassau County Feis retains the rare distinction of being a full Feis in the traditional meaning of of that term, in that it showcases not only Irish stepdancing competitions (over 500 dancers are expected this year), but also a full menu of Gaelic bagpiping, traditional Irish music and song, Irish language activities, games, sports… and even baking!
Significantly, Long Island’s annual Feis also retains an important characteristic once shared by all Feiseanna (plural for Feis): all the activities take place outdoors, on the shores, no less, of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Residents of communities on Ireland’s Atlantic coast are sometimes heard to boast that they live in “the next parish to America”; what with the evocative activities and dramatic setting, attendees at Feis might be forgiven for feeling that they are visiting New York’s “next parish to Ireland”!
Higlights of the day include:
- Irish Stepdancing: The Feis features a full range of competitions and demonstrations of traditional Irish stepdancing. The dancers perform intricate steps, often arrayed in dazzlingly colorful outfits, dancing jigs, reels, hornpipes and set dances.
- Gaelic Bagpiping: Both individual pipers and drummers, as well as full pipe bands, compete in a number of levels of competition. The pipers play the “píob mhor”, the “big pipes” familiar to lovers of Gaelic music around the world, shared by people of both Irish and Scottish heritage and all those who share their love of this stirring music. The pipe bands join in a parade around the Feis grounds at midday and an unforgettable musical spectacle takes place before the close of the Feis, when all the musicians join together in a thunderous performance of the “massed bands”.
- Traditional Irish Music and Song: Individual musicians demonstrate their talents and compete for prizes on a number of instruments, including the fiddle, tin whistle, flute, accordion, all forms of bagpipes, drums and keyboards, or any other instrument of their choice. Singers do the same, and judges have been known to award extra points for songs sung in the Irish language.
- Irish Language Activities: This year the famed Gerry Tobin Irish Language School, “Scoil Ghaeilge Gheróid Tóbín”, will be returning to the Feis to assist with Irish language activities. A tent will be erected where visitors may drop in for “ceol agus craic” (music and fun) a “cupán tae” (a cup of tea), listen to conversation and recitation “as Gaeilge” (in the Irish language) and even learn a “cúpla focail” (a few words), in the Irish language.
- Irish Art: The work of artists showing various Irish and Celtic themes will be displayed throughout the day and a panels of judges will award prizes.
- Soda Bread Contest: This is one of the most hotly-contested events of the day is the day. There are as many styles of Irish soda bread as there are bakers, and spectators are free to taste the entries and make their own decisions once the judges are finished.
The Feis features vendors selling Irish goods and food is available. Visitors are free to bring their own picnic baskets, food and drink (no grills, please), chairs, tents and blankets. A Catholic Mass is celebrated at noon and a dance band will be playing throughout the afternoon. There is ample parking and lots of space to spread out. Tickets of $10 each and are obtained at the gate; children under 12 enter for free. Please join us and enjoy a great taste of Irish culture on the shores of Long Island. You’ll be guaranteed a “céad míle fáilte (“a hundred thousand welcomes”) when you do!
For more information, visit the Feis website at nassauaohfeis.com, or on Facebook, or call or text Robert P. Lynch at 516-782-7494, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.