Rose of Tralee Irish Night in McLaren Vale: Lessons learned and enjoyments had

On Sunday April 26th, 2015 I jointly coordinated an event for a member of our dance class, Elise Fechner, who had entered the 2015 Rose of Tralee Quest in South Australia. We created a rose and Irish-themed night with Irish music, Irish dance performances, nibbles, tea and coffee, a photobooth and various games, to raise money for Can:Do4Kids, a charity that helps vision and hearing impaired children. Elise had spontaneously decided to enter the Rose Quest only a month or so before, following encouragement from the organisers, and around a month beforehand had decided to plan a large event, having been told all her fundraisers should be done by the end of April.


One lesson I learnt from this experience is that beautiful old halls like the McLaren Vale Institute, used in this case, are sometimes not ideal for sound purposes. We chose to put the band on the floor so that the dance performances could be easily viewed on the stage, but we had a lot of difficulties with echo and feedback and had to rearrange our set list on the night to allow extra time for working out sound problems. In the end, however, I was very happy with how our band presented, with several people who were performing on instruments or singing for the first time or following a long break having a very successful evening.


A second important lesson was the timing of the event in relation to school holidays. Elise and I chose the date to avoid clashing with Friday night dance classes, which in fact would not have been a problem as it was still school holidays on the previous Friday. The Sunday was the only other day we had free in common that was not a public holiday (ANZAC day made the Saturday a bad choice). However, as the last day of school holidays it was a poor choice for getting large numbers to the event, as families were preparing to send kids back to school, trainee teachers were leaving for their country schools, Elise herself had teaching placement starting the next day, and people were wanting an early night before going back to their routines. Despite this, we got an acceptable crowd of around 50 who were all very supportive and enthusiastic.

I tried out several new activity ideas at this event to get the crowd up and doing things. Two major successes were having members of the dance class teach someone new how to Irish skip, giving a prize for the best team, and running an audience ‘accapella’; a rhythmical exercise where we built up various table drumming, clapping and tapping beats to make a complex percussion sound. Although only a few people were brave enough to be taught to skip, the rest of the audience were very interested and amused watching it occur and clapped for the learners. The entire crowd participated in the accapella and sounded  wonderful, and were pleased with themselves. I also organised several ‘guestbook’ ideas for people to sign, including paper tablecloths which they could write, draw on or otherwise decorate, a ‘write on a rose’ bouquet collage, a fingerprint friendship tree and a blackboard for the photobooth to write messages. The guests who attended were also very willing to come up and try learning the social ceili dances and were very successful in all cases dancing on their own without anyone calling by the end of the tune.


Dance performances were well-known apart from one or two especially choreographed for the night, and all went smoothly. A stand out was the idea of adding dance sections to the end of songs, with a duo dancing to the instrumental at the end of Star of the County Down and some hard shoe to the jazzy beats at the end of Dirty Old Town.


Many members of the dance class volunteered to bake things for a supper table and we put out a tin for small change donations. The shamrock gingerbread, apple roses, cupcakes, damper and bacon and cheese scrolls almost all disappeared by the end of the night and donations from this made up a substantial part of the funds raised. Elise reported having raised over $700, a great achievement given the size of the crowd and the short time frame in which we organised the event.


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