With a name like Kelly Green, she was destined to reign at the St. Patrick's Day parade
When we found out Kelly Green had been named queen of the 51st St. Patrick’s Day Parade, we were sure the contest was as crooked as the snakes old St. Pat drove out of the Emerald Isle.
But lest the 30 judges who selected the 50th “fairest Colleen in the land” (they neglected to crown a queen the first year of the parade) be accused of some sort of shenanigans, contestants aren’t allowed to reveal their surnames, so as to not unduly influence the voting. (The queen’s family seems to have an every-other-generation sense of humor: Kelly’s grandfather was named Forest Green.)
While a lot of the previous winners have belonged to clans like O’Toole, McLaughlin or O’Connell, parade coordinator Kevin Sherlock says there has been at least one half-Italian (Jennifer Battistoni) and a half–Blackfoot Indian queen (nonetheless, she was a Murphy). Sherlock says the only requirements are that the single lasses be ages 17 to 28, come from the Chicago area and have some Irish blood. But, “we don’t [make them] prove it or anything—we take their word for it,” Sherlock says.
Green, a 24-year-old Arlington Heights native, will be on hand Saturday 11 at the downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Sunday 12 at the South Side Irish Parade (there’s no official South Side parade queen).
“I’m proud to represent Irish heritage and the Plumbers Union,” says the Illinois Wesleyan University grad, whose favorite color is—you guessed it—kelly green. In addition to getting to ride in a horse-drawn carriage in the parade, Green also receives prizes such as two round-trip tickets to Ireland, airfare for two anywhere Southwest Airlines flies, spending money for the trips, Waterford crystal, Sox and Cubs tickets, and various gold and diamond trinkets.
The Plumbers Union (Local 130), which is also in charge of dyeing the Chicago River that god-awful shade of neon green the day of the downtown parade, organizes the pageant. That makes perfect sense to Sherlock who says “anything having to deal with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the city of Chicago is done by the plumbers.”
Green says despite all the gifts and adoration she’s received, the title hasn’t gone to her head. It has affected her boyfriend, though. “He thinks this makes him the king,” she says. “I told him, ‘No, no, you’re more like the court jester.’?”—Tim McCormick
The St. Patrick’s Day parades are Saturday 11 and Sunday 12.