Brianna Fitz crowned 2012 Holyoke Grand Colleen
by Tim Kane
HOLYOKE – Brianna Fitz of Holyoke was crowned the 2012 Holyoke Grand Colleen at the Log Cabin on Saturday evening. Fitz was joined by her court of Juliette R. Chenier, Kelly W. Donahoe, Allison B. Lapointe and Kelli A. Laramee.
The five women previously competed in the Colleen Pageant in January at Holyoke High School.
Fitz, 20, said it took her a few moments to realize her named had been called. “I was so completely thrilled. This is what I worked so hard for, for so many years. It’s always been at the back of my mind,” she said.
Fitz, with the tiara firmly placed on her head, said she felt like a princess and expected the feeling to last throughout the parade season. “It seems surreal. I’m still walking on a cloud. If I weren’t wearing it, I would think it didn’t exist. It’s like a dream,” she said.
The newly crowned Grand Colleen said she is anticipating parade day. “I watched those floats go by for many years now, and I’m so excited to be on it, waving and smiling all along the way,” she said.
Fitz is a junior at Boston College and is majoring in psychology major with a minor sociology. She plans to attend medical school after graduation and hopes to work for the international agency Doctors without Borders.
She graduated from Holyoke Catholic High School where she received numerous academic and athletic awards. Recently, Fitz received the EMT of the Year Award for her volunteer medical work to the Boston College community. She also teaches CPR and sexual assault prevention classes.
Fitz is the daughter of Michael and Kathleen Fitz. Her father said, “If my mother was here, she would say, ‘If I died tomorrow, I’d die happy.’”
The colleens were attired in olive-green satin gowns designed by Patti McClain, a South Hadley designer. Each contestant held a small bouquet as they took their moment on the stage, as family and friends offered wild support.
Shannon Hegy, of ABC News40, was the mistress-of-ceremonies and introduced the contestants. She asked each women of the key attribute a Grand Colleen should possess.
Fitz said while outer beauty was appreciated, inner beauty was the most important attribute. She said Cinderella and similar characters had inner beauty, which inspired her and other little girls. “Just stay beautiful,” she told the audience.
Laramee, escorted by her father, Timothy, said leadership was the key, as past colleens also displayed poise and beauty. She said the Grand Colleen should empower other young women in the community.
Chenier said being honest with herself and the actions she performs throughout her day was important to her. “When you are yourself is when you’re the most happiest,” she said.
Parade Committee President Russ McNiff Jr. received his walking stick from his father, Russ McNiff Sr., a past parade committee president and award winner. His father told him that as he marches through the streets on parade day, remember their ancestors who came to Holyoke and made a new life for themselves.
2011 Grand Colleen Meaghan A. Leahy gave her farewell address before Hegy announced the winner. She said riding along the parade route was one of her proudest moments. “I will never forget what this experience meant to me, and how it helped me grow into the person I am today,” she told supporters. She thanked the parade committee for their hard work and dedication.
Band Union Jack preformed during the evening. After the coronation, guests, dressed in formal wear, enjoyed a sit down dinner prepared by the Log Cabin. The 61st Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade is on Sunday, March 18.