Beverly/Morgan Park native Maura Connors, 23, is providing a brush with royalty in her old neighborhood this month. Connors, daughter of John and Caroline Connors, was chosen as Queen of the 2017 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade
As a spokesperson and centerpiece for the event, Connors has been traveling from one end of the city to the other, appearing at cultural, charity and political events and exemplifying the Irish ideal of home, heart and heritage. It’s a role that comes naturally to her.
Connors’ ancestors on both sides of the family left the Irish counties of Kilkenny, Mayo, Cork, Limerick and Tipperary to settle in Chicago five and six generations ago. Most of her relatives still reside in Chicago, and they’re likely to be lining Columbus Drive when the Chicago Plumbers Union Local 130’s 62nd annual parade steps off at noon on Sat., Mar 11.
“Embracing the Irish culture was always part of my daily life,” Connors said. ”My parents placed an emphasis on heritage and ancestors. My maternal grandparents lived upstairs of my parents, our family is tight knit. We celebrate our family connection and the core values of the Irish.”
Connors graduated from the University of Chicago in June 2015, and now works as part of the U of C college admissions team. Her outgoing personality and positive energy are qualities suited to her career as well as her reign as Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen. Growing up, she attended St. Barnabas elementary school and St. Ignatius College Prep. Her siblings are following suit: Fiona is a 7th grader at St. Barnabas and Finnbar is a senior at St. Ignatius.
Connor’s knowledge of Ireland and Irish culture, as well as her deep appreciation for family and heritage certainly stood her in good stead in this year’s competition for Parade Queen. Last year, Connors won a position on the Queen’s court, and that motivated her to pursue the challenge.
“Being on the court last year offered me an amazing opportunity to meet so many women in Chicago who are bound by the Irish community, and to attend so many charity and political events,” she said. Another perc was frequently hearing Shannon Rovers Pipe Band, which follows the Court.
During her yearlong reign as Queen, Connors will again be immersed in the Irish culture, but her duties will be expanded. She will attend even more events and make appearances on radio and television. Connors will visit City Hall, attend a meeting of City Council, have dinner with the Mayor of County Cork, and party with the Young Irish Fellowship Club. She will flash her beautiful smile for photos with everyone from little Irish dancers to Irish dignitaries.
Unmarried women of Irish descent between the ages of 18 and 28 are eligible to compete for Queen of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade – the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country. According to Connors, about 75 to 100 young women usually compete.
“I was kind of in awe when I was named,” she said. “It took a few days to hit me!” Until her busy schedule of appearances caught up with her, the reality didn’t fully sink in. Now her reign is in full swing, and she’s loving it. “Being Queen is amazing!” she said. “I get to wear a tiara!”
For Connors, the best part of being Queen is not the tiara. It’s the deep and lasting friendships she has made, the insights about herself that she has gained, and the chance to share the excitement with her family. “They are coming to a lot of events,” she said. “It’s so nice to include my family in this experience.”
Connors is really looking forward to Parade day, not just for the privilege of representing the Plumbers Local 130, the City and her heritage, but because she’ll also be setting an example of poise and pride for two of her young fans and potential Parade Queens. Riding along in the Queen’s carriage will be two special guests, her sister Fiona and cousin her Faith Benson, both 12.