Feis Travel Survival - Irish Step Dancing Competitions and Feis Buckets

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Those of you not involved with the world of Irish step dancing might not know what it's really about. I used to be a competitive dancer, and now my daughter is. And let me stress the competitive part of this. Irish dancing is so much more that a quirky, cool connection to our cultural heritage (though it is that). It's an intensely athletic sport as well as a graceful art form, and it largely centers around competitions, called feisanna (the singular is feis, say FESH--there, you learned some Irish!).

Irish dancers just wear curly wigs and bright, blingy, outrageously expensive costumes while they perform their remarkable athletic feats.

To go to these competitions, we travel. We pack up the Kia Sedona minivan and drive, sometimes within the state, and often to nearby states. Here in the southwest that can mean a long drive. California, New Mexico, etc.

We have the school dress, the solo dress, the luggage for the family of four, snacks, entertainment for little sister, and the feis bucket.

And there's still room to have a seat up in the back so that little sister (who does a convincing job of looking angelic in photographs) doesn't torment her sister and drive us all mad on the trip. The two captain's chairs in the second row did a good job of creating enough distance between them for the first few years, but at age 4, Niamh turns out to be a precocious tormenter and provocateur.

Besides our luggage, there's a lot of STUFF that has to go to a feis. The school costume, the solo dress, the poodle socks, the soft shoes, the hard shoes...

Irish dancing sock glue

...the sock glue (oh yes, the sock glue! Wouldn't want slouchy socks!), the shoe bling...

...the wigs (back in MY day we had to suffer through sleeping in curlers all night long), the hairpins, the hair ties, the card holders...

...you get the idea. Stuff. Lots of it.

One ingenious way to corral at least most of it, is with the Feis Bucket.

Now this is a feis bucket, but it's also my own twist on one. Most people upholster the lid to make a comfortable seat. But 1) I was to cheap to buy the necessary stuffings and forms. 2) I figured out a way to get even MORE use out of the object. So the Feis Bucket 2.0 was born!

How to Make a Feis Bucket

  • 5 gallon paint bucket (about $2.50 from a hardware store or Walmart)
  • 5 gallon paint bucket lid (inexplicably sold separately, about $2)
  • travel neck pillow
  • 1 sheet scrapbook paper
  • 1 yard ric rac
  • hot glue gun
  • spray adhesive
  • 10" elastic
  • drill

Plain white 5 gallon paint buckets are functional for holding stuff already. Not all that comfortable for sitting on, though. That's where feis buckets start getting pimped.

See those crazy, engineered skirts? You really can't sit down while wearing them without messing them up. Mr. Bracken would be very upset to see a Bracken dancer sitting in one of the school dresses! But you can safely sit on a feis bucket without messing up the skirt!

I started by embellishing the plastic lid with scrapbook paper. I let Ainsley choose any paper she wanted, and traced around it. 12" round diameter lid, 12" scrapbook paper, fate! It was perfect. I used spray adhesive to attach the paper to the lid.

I then glued some silver ric-rac to the perimeter of the paper circle, just so it wouldn't get caught and peel up as quickly. And because I had shiny ric-rac. Irish dancers like sparkle. After obsessively watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, I'm wondering if the gypsy fashion sense has infiltrated Irish dancing? I'm sure there are Irish step dancers in the Irish traveler society, after all. MORE SPARKLE = BETTER with both gypsies and Irish dancers, evidently!

Drill two holes in the upper third of the bucket lid.

Thread elastic band through the two holes.

Tie the elastic on the underside, leaving enough play in the elastic to hold the travel pillow you bought in place.

The travel pillow makes for a comfy seat when you're sitting around in costume at a feis...

...and is easily removable and handy for the long rides to and from the competition!

I gave Ainsley a glue gun and let her go crazy with the decorations.

It's her feis bucket, after all!

(As an aside, how worried should I be, on a scale of 1-10, that when my 9 year old saw My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and took a gander at those dresses, she announced that she wanted to marry a gypsy? Yes, it prompted a discussion about women's rights and feminism. I am a Vassar girl, after all.)

Now we have ample space for all her dance stuff, as well as a place for Ainsley to sit and rest at competitions (which can last all day).

Sure, it looks a little silly, but it does the job. And I didn't have to pay $40 for it. And my kid got to decorate it herself and feel ownership of the creative project. Let's hear it for raising DIY kids!

This post is sponsored by Kia. UPDATE: My Kia Sedona minivan had plenty of capacity (I loved the space), but it died a horrible, complete death 2,000 miles after it was out of warrantee. Two months after it had been at the dealer for regular maintenence and an inspection. Have not had a response back from Kia.

Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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