SMC student named ‘Maid of Erin’
Alex Winegar | Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Saint Mary’s sophomore Kaitlin Nelson earned the 56th Maid of Erin title in a Detroit Irish scholarship competition on Feb. 22, earning the right to represent the Detroit United Irish Society for one year.
Nelson, a communications and theatre major, said The Maid of Erin is required to make public appearances and speeches at local Detroit events, especially during the Saint Patrick’s Day season.
She said she discovered the competition through her family, which has been involved in the Detroit Irish community for generations.
“My cousins have been a part of the competition and I always knew I would compete,” Nelson said. “I am also a part of a women’s Irish group in Detroit called the Daughters of Erin which is very involved in the competition.”
The competition requires any girl of Irish descent between the ages of 16-23 to make two speeches, take part in an interview and perform in a talent portion in front of judges, Nelson said. The panel of four judges is composed of dignitaries in the community.
“My first speech focused on my work with a program called Girls on the Run, a non- profit organization which teaches middle-school girls self confidence while training them for a 5K,” Nelson said. “My second question was an Irish history question and for my talent portion, I Irish danced. I have been Irish dancing for over 16 years now, and it has been a major part of my life taking me all the way to the championship level.”
Nelson said the Saint Patrick’s Day season is the busiest for the Maid. Parties and fundraisers lead up to the largest event, the annual Detroit Saint Patrick’s Day parade.
“The parade day begins at 4:30 a.m. with interviews with all the local news stations and radio shows, then off to Mass at 9 a.m.,” Nelson said. “The next part of the day is the Cork Town Races which is the city’s 5K, then the parade begins.
“The Maid of Erin starts the parade and is driven by a horse and carriage. When I reach the end of the parade I go to the grand stand with the dignitaries and watch the rest of the parade.
“There are many parties after the parade as well to celebrate Cork Town as it is Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, established in 1834.”
Detroit’s 56th annual parade was Sunday, and participants marched in the second coldest winter on record, Nelson said.
“Our faces were frozen but our Irish blood was flowing strong, keeping us warm.” Nelson said. “The parade was spectacular, and a lot of people came out despite the cold weather.”
While Nelson reigns as queen, one of her many ambitions is to start a Detroit Irish organization for kids. There is a lack of opportunity for children, Nelson said.
“I think Detroit exemplifies how diverse our community is and how proud we are of culture,” Nelson said. “As the Irish community, I think it is our responsibility to share this pride with the generations to come. We are proud of our heritage and the hard working people that got us where we are today and that should be passed down.”
Nelson said she is most looking forward to being able to represent the United Irish Society at various community events in Detroit and to show Irish pride
“No matter how tiring the events get, I remind myself how lucky I am to be a part of such a dedicated and hard working culture,” Nelson said. “Detroit’s Irish history dates back to 1834 and, through all the hardships, exemplifies how strong the Irish are. I am truly proud to be Detroit Irish.”