Meet the queen: Palos Heights woman a first for Irish parade
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com February 28, 2013 5:18PM
If you go
What: South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade
When: Noon, March 10
Where: Western Avenue, from 103rd Street to 115th Street
Why: It’s the largest neighborhood-based St. Patrick’s Day parade outside of Dublin and showcases community pride and celebration of family, Irish culture and heritage.
More information: www.southside
Updated: April 2, 2013 6:04AM
The South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade always has been a significant part of Margaret McGann’s Irish heritage.
As a little girl, she danced in it as a Closskey Irish dancer or enjoyed the floats from her grandpa’s porch. As a teen, she hung out along the Western Avenue parade route with her friends, and as an adult, she has worked at her family’s Beverly Woods Restaurant/McGann’s Pub, at the end of the route.
The 24-year-old has grown along with the popular parade, and this year is no exception.
For the first time, the parade will have a queen, and for the first time, McGann will be a queen — the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen.
She claims not to be a “pageanty” girl, but her grandpa and her uncles talked her into applying, and she stopped in for the interview on her way to work at the restaurant.
“I was shocked,” she said of learning she had been chosen. “I wasn’t expecting to win.”
She was crowned at a pre-parade fundraiser party Feb. 15 by the reigning Chicago Rose of Tralee, Margaret Rose Keating.
“I am honored to be such a big part of my favorite day of the year,” the Palos Heights resident said. “I plan to soak it all in.
“The parade is always so much fun. Everyone is out. Everyone is in a good mood,” McGann said.
Her favorite part of the parade is the wearin’ of the green. This year, she’ll add a sparkly tiara to her red curly hair and ride in a vintage convertible with other queens, including Keating, Miss Heart of Illinois 2013 Marisa Buchheit, and Miss Illinois United States 2012 Nancy To.
As the newly crowned parade queen, McGann will be entered into a pool of contestants vying to be named the Chicago Rose of Tralee on April 27 at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago. If she wins, she travels to Ireland in August to compete in the 54th Rose of Tralee International Festival — one of Ireland’s largest and longest-running cultural festivals.
“I think 2013 is going to be a good year,” she said, feeling the luck of the Irish.
Parade co-chair Joe Connelly said representatives of the Rose of Tralee presented the idea to the South Side parade committee, who embraced it.
“We thought it would be a nice opportunity for a young lady,” he said. “It just adds to the pageantry of it all.”
McGann was selected after an interview with an independent panel of judges, who felt she exemplified the qualities of the parade, with her strong family ties, involvement in the community and her Irish heritage, he said.
The parade committee hopes the queen will become a new tradition, and sees it as a way to highlight the Irish heritage and cultural celebration that the parade represents to the community.
That heritage is important to McGann and her large family.
McGann’s Irish roots stem from County Roscommon, County Mayo, County Cork and County Kerry, Ireland. Her family’s restaurant has been a mainstay in the Beverly community since 1954.
It was her family who convinced McGann to apply for the queen’s seat, she said.
“My grandpa taught our family about Irish traditions,” she said, seated beneath a family portrait in the restaurant lobby. “Now he has something else he can talk about. I think he’s more excited about it than I am.”
Her father, Bill McGann, is equally proud of his daughter.
“They could not have picked a better person. I’m not just saying that because she’s my daughter,” he said. “No one deserves it more than her, and I’m being objective.”
He recalled that when his daughter was a young dancer, customers would give her tips if she danced for them.
“She couldn’t dance a lick, but she had the face for it. She has the face of Ireland,” Bill McGann said.
Her beautiful, long, curly red hair is embellished with smiling Irish eyes. She also has an Irish heart that cherishes her family’s heritage.
“Everyone here is Irish and is very proud of that,” she said.
There are always large family gatherings that include traditional foods and music. But on parade day, it also means that everyone works at the restaurant and pub, where every banquet room at Beverly Woods is booked with private parties, and McGann’s Pub is open to the reveling public.
Bill McGann has never been able to see the parade, but this year he hopes to catch a glimpse of his queen.
“I’m certainly going to try,” he said.
Until the parade steps off at noon March 10, Queen McGann is practicing her wave and searching for the perfect green dress.
“Everyone says I have to do the wave,” she said, laughing as she demonstrated.
Her reign will be brief. She has to get back to work and tend bar on one of the restaurant’s busiest days of the year.
“I guess I will go to work in my gown,” she said.