For the second time in just over a decade, the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be led by a Western Springs woman as Bridget McMahon Fitzgerald, a lifetime resident of the Village, was named parade queen at a contest in Chicago last week.
Fitzgerald, 24, was competing for the third straight year, having placed in the top 25 in 2011 and the “Queen’s Court” top-five in 2012. At the announcement—a video of which is available on the parade website—she can be seen wiping away joyous tears.
“I was just so honored, and that’s why I started crying for a second,” said Fitzgerald. “I’ve worked so hard for this—I’ve gone to every single event with the word ‘Irish’ in it in Chicago for three years, rubbing elbows, shaking hands… I just honestly love being Irish and from Chicago.”
She follows in the footsteps of 2002 queen Megan Eileen Connelly, also a Village of Western Springs resident. (She is also the second Western Springs Chicago culture-parade winner in a year after .)
Fitzgerald said she was inspired to start participating by 2005 queen Bridget McLaughlin, who got her interested in the Young Irish Fellowship of Chicago.
Her duties have already begun, the major highlight being last Friday’s personal invitation tour to dignitaries like Governor Pat Quinn and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. And there are many more to comic.
“We’re doing so many fundraisers and appearances and have the opportunity to go to all these really nice parties for these really nice causes,” she said. “The morning of the parade is really the last day of a big [campaign] to invite everybody.”
Professionally a consultant for HumanaVitality, Fitzgerald graduated from St. John of the Cross in Western Springs in 2002 and from Fenwick High School in Oak Park in 2006. As part of a newer family Irish-pride tradition, she regularly wears a gold shamrock necklace.
She said the hardest question in the contest—not a pageant, she emphasized, all business-casual attire—was Cubs versus White Sox. (She’s won’t take a side and cheers both, but gives U.S. Cellular Field an edge for their churros.)
The contest is trickier for west-side contestants, Fitzgerald added, than for those who grew up and are recognized in south Chicago’s highly Irish neighborhoods. But, she added, “I like to think that my passion for Chicago history and for Chicago Irish was what was deserving of the win.
“I’m just honestly so happy to know that hard work and dedication still pays off in this day and age.”
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