Colleens and courts gather before parade day

by Town Reminder

colleen gathering

Colleens and courts gather before parade day

By Dennis P. Hohenberger
Turley Correspondent

CHICOPEE – Colleen and courts from across the region gathered at the Fairview Castle of Knights on Sunday. The Colleen Courts from Agawam, Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield, Westfield and West Springfield celebrated with family, friends and supporters.
Over the next few weeks, the courts will make a series of public appearances, which leaves little breathing room until Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 22.
Ireland Parish roused the crowd with Irish classics. The colleens danced and mimed to the popular Unicorn Song. Children and parade committee members joined in.
The Ancient Order of Hibernian raffled off a handmade quilt. The annual gathering, once known as the ‘Love In,’ switches locations each year. Last year’s event was held in Westfield for the first time.
Colleens and court members wore Irish knit sweaters and dark skirts. Tiaras topped the heads of Grand Colleen Ally K. Craven and fellow colleens. Only Holyoke holds the title of Grand Colleen.
The courts will visit area schools, hospitals, nursing homes and make local television appearances. The Holyoke Court will attend the upcoming John F. Kennedy National Award Banquet and The Ambassador Award Breakfast before the parade.
Mayor Richard J. Kos and State Rep. Joseph D. Wagner represented the City of Chicopee at Sunday’s gathering. Holyoke Grand Marshal Raymond Feyre and his wife, Susan, were in attendance.
They were joined by State Rep. Aaron Vega D-Holyoke and Holyoke Parade Committee President Jacki Reardon.
Reardon said the Holyoke committee finalized the line of march earlier in the week, which includes bands, floats, military units, community contingents and the local organizations.
“It went extremely well. Things are in great shape. Kathy Krisak (Parade Coordinator) just has to put on some finishing touches,” said Reardon. The line-up will be available for the parade.
The gathering provided a short but needed break before parade week. “We get that chance just to hang out. There’s a lot of things that need to be hashed out. It doesn’t go down the street by itself,” she said.
The South Hadley Parade Committee will host Irish Night at the Castle of Knights on Saturday, March 14.
Craven, who was crowned Grand Colleen on Feb. 21 in Holyoke, said, “It’s super exciting” to meet the other courts. “I never realized how many people are actually colleens. It’s really cool to meet everyone, get to know them and experience this with all of them.”
The courts posed for one large group photo.
“To be able to represent my family, Irish heritage and Holyoke in general is such an honor,” said Craven. “I’m completely excited for the parade. I can’t wait to see everyone there and celebrate Irish heritage.
Chicopee Parade Committee President Robert Liswell said he looked forward to the incoming warm weather.
“This is what everyone looks forward to after the colleens and courts have been picked. It’s a day to represent your town and division in the Holyoke parade,” he said. “It’s a real honor.”
Chicopee Colleen Shannon McAndrew said she and her court members have been treated like “royalty” since the coronation ball on Feb. 28. “We’re treated like celebrities at school. Everyone has said congratulations to us,” said the Chicopee High School senior.
McAndrew and several of her court members wore their sashes to school the Monday after the ball. In a modest move, she left her tiara at home.
Like Craven, she was surprised by the number of Western Mass. communities with colleen courts. “We’re all having so much fun because we all have something in common right away,” she said.
The Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade will take place on Sunday, March 22.