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South Side Irish Parade crowns its first queen

Margaret McGann is inaugural queen South Side Irish Parade. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

Margaret McGann is the inaugural queen of the South Side Irish Parade. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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South Side Irish Parade

♦ Noon, March 10

♦ Western Avenue, from 103rd St. south to 115th St.

♦ Visit www.southside or

The South Side Irish Parade has always been a significant part of Margaret McGann’s Irish heritage.

As a little girl, she danced in it as a Closskey Irish dancer or enjoyed the floats from her grandpa’s porch. As a teen, she hung out along the Western Avenue parade route with her friends, and as an adult, she worked at her family’s Beverly Woods Restaurant/McGann’s Pub, at the end of the route.

The 24-year-old has grown along with the popular parade, and this year is no exception.

For the first time the parade will have a queen, andthat queen will be Margaret McGann.

She claims not to be a “pageanty” girl, but her grandpa and her uncles talked her into applying, and she stopped in for the interview on her way to work at the restaurant.

“I was shocked,” she said when she learned she was chosen. “I wasn’t expecting to win.”

She was crowned at a pre-parade fund-raiser party Feb. 15 by the reigning Chicago Rose of Tralee, Margaret Rose Keating.

“I am honored to be such a big part of my favorite day of the year,” the Palos Heights resident said. “I plan to soak it all in. The parade is always so much fun. Everyone is out. Everyone is in a good mood,” McGann said.

Her favorite part of the parade is the wearin’ of the green. This year, she’ll add a sparkly tiara to her red curly hair and ride in a vintage convertible with other queens including Keating, Miss Heart of Illinois 2013, Marisa Buchheit, and Miss Illinois — United States 2012, Nancy To.

As the newly crowned queen of the South Side Irish Parade, McGann will be entered into a pool of contestants vying to be named the Chicago Rose of Tralee on April 27 at the Irish American Heritage Center of Chicago. If she wins, she travels to Ireland in August to compete in the 54th Rose of Tralee International Festival — one of Ireland’s largest and longest running cultural festivals.

Parade co-chair Joe Connelly said representatives of the Rose of Tralee presented the idea to the South Side committee and they embraced it.

“We thought it would be a nice opportunity for a young lady,” he said. “It just adds to the pageantry of it all.”

McGann was selected after an interview with an independent panel of judges, who felt she exemplified the qualities of the parade, with her strong family ties, involvement in the community and her Irish heritage, he said.

The parade committee hopes the queen will become a new tradition, and sees it as a way to highlight the Irish heritage and cultural celebration that the parade represents to the community.

McGann’s Irish roots stem from County Roscommon, County Mayo, County Cork and County Kerry, Ireland. Her family’s restaurant has been a mainstay in the Beverly community since 1954.

“My grandpa taught our family about Irish traditions,” McGann said, seated beneath a family portrait in the restaurant lobby. “Now, he has something else he can talk about. I think he’s more excited about it than I am.”

Her father, Bill McGann, is equally proud of his daughter.

“They could not have picked a better person. I’m not just saying that because she’s my daughter,” he said. “No one deserves it more than her, and I’m being objective.”

He recalled that when his daughter was a young dancer, customers would give her tips if she danced for them.

“She couldn’t dance a lick, but she had the face for it. She has the face of Ireland,” Bill McGann said.

Her long curly red hair is embellished with smiling Irish eyes. She also has an Irish heart that cherishes her family’s heritage.

“Everyone here is Irish and is very proud of that,” she said.

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