Milwaukee Feis Society History
As we celebrate our 29th annual feis, we have proudly become the first and longest running feis in Wisconsin. It was suggested by Mr. Dennis Dennehy ADCRG that a Feis be brought to the Milwaukee area. Our collaborative effort began with a visit to the Trinity parents by Mr. William Starr, a parent of a Cashel Dennehy student. Mr. Starr suggested that the Feis be considered and implemented by Cashel Dennehy and Trinity. This meeting was held in 1989, and we hoped to have our local feis in place by the next year. Mr. Dennehy was vital in helping us start this Feis and we appreciate his encouragement and support.
Our first feis was located at the Carroll College campus in Waukesha, and we happily welcomed 400 competitors. After enjoying this facility for the next 2 years, we moved to the Student Union at Marquette University to accommodate our growing numbers and to introduce our local and out of town guests to our Milwaukee campus. We had hoped to make this an annual occurrence at Marquette, but once again we happily found ourselves with numbers growing, and the need for a larger facility. We moved to the campus of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, where we found there was space for all our activities and another great environment for everyone. Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict by the University made it necessary to find another facility for our growing and popular activity. We then found that the Four Points Sheraton Hotel provided the space and the rooms, allowing us to continue. After a few years, another scheduling conflict found us back at UWM, and we are hopeful this will continue for some time.
Since 2000, we have added Glencastle, Kinsella, McMenamin, and Rince Nia Irish dance schools to our area, and as co-sponsors of our feis. We are unique in having this sort of community effort to promote our cultural art form.
The most rewarding aspect of our feis has been the opportunity to provide a local feis as we had hoped, and for it to continue. We have also funded scholarships for any local musician wanting to become a feis musician to take classes at the Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School. These musicians have been taught by master musician Tony Nother of Canada. We also fund a $500 fee for Milwaukee students to take their TCRG tests, and have seen many local students become certified as teachers of Irish dance. Our feis has provided the stages for the new local feiseanna, and the storage facility for the stages and equipment. This is under the coordination efforts of Henry Gottschlich, and has benefited the entire community.
This feis speaks volumes for the camaraderie of the original board members, as we are all still in place, and are the parents of local TCRG’s or teachers as well as many of us becoming grandparents with another generation exposed to this special art form.
Julie Smith, Vice President
The Milwaukee Feis is a unique event at which all of the Milwaukee Irish dance schools joined together with a common goal – working together to ensure a successful competition and exeprience for all. This year’s honorees are the late Dennis Dennehy and his wife Marge Dennehy. Dennis, who resided on the South side of Chicago, had been making the drive north to teach in Milwaukee for over 5 years at the time. With no type of competition in Milwaukee, he suggested to Bill Starr, a parent in Cashel Dennehy at the time, that it would be a good idea to bring a feis to Milwaukee. With the patience to answer a thousand questions, bring ideas of working together for the common good to fruition, they persevered, and the city gave birth to the Milwaukee Feis. Dennis and Marge Dennehy are not only legendary dance teachers, but influential in so many ways. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping the Milwaukee Feis get off the ground!
Maura Harmon Trophy
Maura Harmon’s death in an automobile accident in January of 2005 left her family and the Milwaukee Irish dance community without the company of a wonderful young woman with a kind soul and a great sense of humor. Maura lead a well-rounded life with a strong Irish theme. She was active in the Ulster Project and Irish Dance. Maura was a member of the Cashel Dennehy School Of Irish Dance from first grade through high school. She gave many hours to practice, always working hard to perfect her steps. She enjoyed sharing her gifts with an audience, especially at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest. Maura really seemed to understand and love Irish dance. She was there at class and there in competition whether it was a local feis or the Oireachtas. However, when it came down to it, she knew that the real happiness was in the friends she made and the great times and memories that she took away from her experiences.
The Milwaukee Feis is honored to have instituted the Maura Harmon Perpetual Trophy, to be presented to the competitor with the highest point total in the Under 16 Preliminary Championship competition.
*Note, if the Under 16 Preliminary Championship competition would happen to be split, the trophy will go to the 1st place winner with the highest point total. In the event of a tie, there will be an adjudicated dance-off.