2012 St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen Sara Collins retired from her reign early last Sunday evening just prior to the crowning of 2013 Queen Bridget Fitzgerald. Sara took the stage at Plumber’s Hall and delivered a genuinely emotional speech to the assembled crowd that stunned the folks in attendance with its heartfelt sincerity and grace. Free Craic has reprinted Sara’s remarks for the entire Irish American community.
What a year it has been! Or should I say what a set of years these have been! My year as Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Queen has come to an end, but I take with me a lifetime of beautiful moments and memories to cherish…. Including one of the warmest parade days in history! 85 degrees on parade day, that doesn’t happen too often. We were so fortunate. Good thing too! Because anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I don’t fair well in the cold.
I want to speak about 3 emotions that come to mind on this day: humility- gratitude – encouragement.
First and foremost, my feelings of humility:
I am fortunate and blessed to have been honored as the 2012 Queen, and to have been member of the Queen’s Court in 2009, 2010, and 2011. I refer to these last four years as a sort of ‘finishing school’. My life has been enriched by all the wonderful people I have met through this experience. I admire all the young women who come out to the contest each year, they are the finest examples of what is so good about the Irish Community here in Chicago. It is humbling to be surrounded by so many good people, who give of their time and talent, to not only make the parade so celebratory, but who extend themselves in service to others, every day.
My great-grandparents immigrated from Counties Roscommon and Clare, 90 years ago. As many in this room can relate to, they passed down their values and work ethic through their deeds and actions – the essence of what it means to be Irish. These strong family values were then passed down to me through my Grandma Carol Sheehan, Grandpa Marty Collins, my father, Michael Collins and my cousins, aunts and uncles.
I am so very grateful to you all, and proud to be Irish.
Next I would like to express My gratitude:
•To the parade organizers, committee, volunteers, board of directors, members of the Plumber’s Union, Chicago Policemen and Firefighters. To the contest judges for your service, and all the former Queens for your encouragement and guidance.
•To my family who were enthusiastic and supportive of my endeavors in the last year, what they refer to as the “Year of Sara”. To the members of my court, and members of past courts, who have enriched my life in so many ways with their enthusiasm, kind hearts, and friendship.
• To the Shannon Rovers!! My gosh you are simply “the best”. Your talent and dedication leave us all speechless year after year. You are indeed the finest band in the land!
• To Fr Hurley of Old St Pats Church, to the choir and the parishioners, who made the annual Mass the morning of St. Patrick’s Day so special and fed our bodies and souls with breakfast after Mass. To the Reverends Kiley, Clair, and Donahue, and his Eminence Cardinal George, you remind us of what we are called to do in service to others, exemplifying our Faith and tradition.
– To the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and the Irish Ambassador, Michael Collins, and consul general Aidan Cronin, who honored us with their attendance at the parade last year.
– To our county and city political leadership and their staffs, who graciously host us in a tour of their offices in receipt of our invitation to attend the parade. Especially our Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, his wife Amy, and his children, who welcomed us with such hospitality, during his first year in office. And to former Mayor Richard M. Daley who was honorary chairman in last year’s parade.
•To the sponsors of the parade, literally dozens of businesses who support the parade, many of which are featured in that beautiful annual book facilitated by Kathy Taylor. To Peter O’Brien and his family for their generous support from their fine restaurant in Old Town.
– And To the hundreds of groups who actually march in the parade, who fill Columbus Drive with their talent and enthusiasm. And hey – – Let’s not forget the River Dyers who make our Chicago River world-famous by turning it that unique shade of green.
And finally, I offer feelings of encouragement:
-To this year’s Queen and her court – You will all be fine, beautiful ambassadors of the Irish Community in Chicago, and are going to have such a fun time this year!
– And to all here today, who represent the Irish American community in Chicago – in outreach and celebration, to continue to invite every Chicagoan, irrespective of heritage and tradition to be “Irish in spirit” this year and join us all in the joy that goes along with the celebration in Chicago this St. Patrick’s Day.
I salute you all. And thank you for this amazing year.