Today: Apr 21, 2024

Student reigns over New Haven Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

Stephanie Paulino, Managing Editor: 

Riding through the downtown Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day parade route was a dream come true for senior Carolyn Shea, the Honor Attendant for the Irish celebration, which took place last Sunday. 

“It cannot be described in words,” said Shea, a communication major. “Seeing your friends, family, and community all cheering you on and supporting you is the best feeling in the world.” 

Participating in a competition between six girls for the titles of parade queen and honor attendant, Shea won over the judges in her essays, interview and formal pageant-style contest on stage. 

Contestants had to be Irish, at least 17-years-old, and a member, daughter or granddaughter of one of the four Irish clubs in the area. Shea is a member of the West Haven Irish-American club. 

The most challenging part of the competition was the on-stage question, she said. 

With everyone watching and lights shining on her, Shea was asked how her Irish cultural values set her apart from her peers. 

The values emphasized in her upbringing were family and religious sacredness, she said. 

“(St. Patrick’s Day) is not a crazy drinking day, its a Saint’s birthday,” said Shea. “My culture never lets me forget it, we even go to mass in the morning.” 

A native of Trumbull, Shea ran for the title of Ms. Shamrock for the Greater Bridgeport St. Patrick’s Day parade, in 2006 and 2007, winning first-runner up in 2007 for a college scholarship. 

A New Haven parade co-chair and Southern alumna, Cathleen Steinau, said Shea got in touch with the committee for information on the process of becoming queen and since then, it’s been ‘wonderful’ working with her. 

“She goes with the flow, and will do anything and everything her schedule permits,” said Shea. 

Describing her crowning of honor attendant for New Haven’s competition last month, Shea said it was ‘awesome’ to win the title, especially because of her friendship with this year’s parade queen, a University of New Haven student, Kristina Conroy. 

Shea competed in 2010, and enjoyed herself so much that when she wasn’t crowned last year, she tried again, working hard on essays through winter break and searching for the perfect gown for the formal portion of the contest. 

As a team, the queen and runner-up promote the parade; attend fundraisers and parade committee meetings. 

All the publicity has become a ‘juggling act’ for Shea, who is the president of Active Minds, vice president of operations for Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, and secretary of Residence Hall Association. 

She’s gone on the air for interviews with Fox 61, WEBE 108, and Quinnipiac and University of New Haven’s radio stations. 

“I had to give up college social events and a little bit of sleep, but it’s worth it,” said Shea. “It’s one of the biggest honors I’ve ever been given.” 

Lindsey Stamp, the 2010 parade queen ran with Shea that year and encouraged her to run for the crown again this time around. 

Stamp, a Southern graduate student, said that being raised in the Irish heritage, she and other participants have an attitude of serving the community, like many students at Southern. 

“We have an open, welcoming attitude,” said Stamp. ‘We strive to show compassion and make everyone feel comfortable.”

A year after her crowning, Stamp said she’s still involved with the parade, mentioning the saying among queens, “just because you give up your crown, it doesn’t mean you’re not a queen.” 

“You run because you’re at a crossroads in your life where you’ve spent all this time doing things for your community, but you want to set yourself apart through your own contributions,” said Stamp. 

The end of the parade doesn’t mark the end of involvement with the Irish community for Shea, who is considered by Stamp as a ‘great representative’. 

“People gravitate toward her because she’s so warm and friendly,” said Stamp. “This job is about bringing people together.” 

Now that the celebration is over, the parade committee will meet to recap the parade, plan fundraisers, and plan for next year, Shea said. 

“I will still be on the committee until next years queens competition as Honor Attendant than continue in the future because I love it,” said Shea. 

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