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The Colleen Contest: An Hallmark of Holyoke

Kassidy Lawrence details the Holyoke Colleen contest, and why girls should continue to take part in this competition.

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The Holyoke Colleen’s have been a tradition in our city for more than 50 years. Young women of Irish decent representing great aspects of the city put Holyoke and South Hadley in a positive light that everyone should feel proud about. It’s a great tradition that should continue for years to come.

Holyoke is full of wonderful traditions including the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It is one of the biggest parades in the country, where cities from all over Western Massachusetts get to march together and showcase all the good they have contributed to where they are from. The Holyoke Colleens are just a few people in the parade that showcase how great Holyoke can be.

The Grand Colleen Pageant, a competition that takes place every year, is how the girls are chosen to be a part of the parade. It’s a competition for young girls of the age of 17 to 22 living in Holyoke and South Hadley. This pageant showcases the girl’s intelligence, poise, connection to their community and their Irish ancestry. Five finalists are chosen by judges who aren’t from Holyoke or South Hadley. The girls part of this competition take a vote for Miss Congeniality. Miss Congeniality is chosen due to her friendly and extremely supportive qualities. Miss Congeniality is also part of the St. Patrick’s Parade on her own convertible or a horse and carriage. The other finalists continue to go on to another competition where the Grand Colleen will be chosen. This competition is known as the Coronation Ball, a very elegant event where guests dress up to come support the finalists. The Colleen’s are asked two questions on stage and are judged as to how clear and concise they respond. The winner is crowned Grand Colleen and the remaining four girls are her Court members. The five girls sit on a float designed by a Holyoke Public Schools Student.

Girls from Holyoke and South Hadley that have Irish ancestry should apply for this pageant. Being a Colleen myself, it was a life-changing experience. The Holyoke Colleen’s do great things for their community during months before the parade.

The Grand Colleen this year is a senior at Springfield college named Madelyn Kelleher. Her court is made up of Carly Costello (Wheaton College), Erin Kebert (Yale University), Kassidy Lawrence (Holyoke High School), and Bridgit Higgins (Westfield State University). Brenna Fogarty (Springfield College) won Miss Congeniality this year as well.

The Colleens travel to different nursing homes, schools and countless events to spread their Irish culture and bring positive energy to the cities. The Grand Colleen speaks at different public events as well. The Colleens are here to support their hometowns and educate students about how they should be proud of where they are from. They are rewarded for their hard work considering academics and dedication to the community with different awards from the State House of Representatives, the State Senate, and different gifts from local businesses that support the parade committee every year. The title of being a Colleen is truly recognizable.

In order to schedule all these events, it takes a lot of time and effort. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee and the Colleen Coordinator Kathy Dulchinos help plan out each year’s festivities.

Kathy Dulchinos is a great supporter of the girls competing in each year’s pageant. She makes them feel welcome and always keeps the girls in line and ready for action.

“In 1986 my late husband, Anthony (Tony) Proulx joined the St. Patrick’s Committee. Together with committee members Jay Lynch and his wife, Connie, who were the escorts at the time, we became Colleen chaperones/escorts… I had become very involved in the colleen experience and in 1989 I joined the committee & was given the title of Colleen Coordinator.  I’ve been active in all things Colleen ever since” said Kathy. The Colleen Experience truly would not be the same without her.

Every year the finalists create amazing experiences with each other, the parade committee and their community. Carly Costello enjoyed her experience and was proud to contribute to her home. “I have entered this competition to give back to the place that has provided me with endless opportunities within my education, sports, and family,” said Carly, a Holyoke High School Alumn.

As Carly said, it is very important to give back to the city from which you are from. The St. Patrick’s Parade Committee and Colleen Committee are all about giving back and supporting their community of Holyoke. It’s a great experience that helps so many aspects of Holyoke and South Hadley  including their local businesses, restaurants, and schools.

“What makes me come back every year is the joy that I get from being a member of the Committee,” said Kathy. “The Colleen Committee, which is just one of many sub-committees, is my team”. Many Committee members, like her, continue to give back every year.

The Grand Colleen pageant has been shrinking in its numbers for quite some time. Last year there were only 16 competitors compared to hundreds that used to compete for this title. In order to keep this tradition going, girls of Irish ancestry should apply! It’s a great learning experience and community service opportunity. You will make so many new friends and mentors along the way. We should definitely continue this tradition and encourage girls to apply for this pageant at the end of December. The increase in competitors may be intimidating, but the experience at the pageant is amazing otherwise. Let’s keep the Colleen’s apart of Holyoke.

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “The Colleen Contest: An Hallmark of Holyoke”

  1. dardim on April 26th, 2018 1:47 pm

    Thank you again these are darling!viagra

    [Reply]

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The Colleen Contest: An Hallmark of Holyoke