The Milford St. Patrick’s Day parade season officially got under way Sunday when this year’s Miss Emerald Isle received her crown and the grand marshal his sash.
Julia Gaul, a sophomore at Foran High School, is the 2014 Miss Emerald Isle, and Fire Commissioner Kevin McGrath is the grand marshal. They were honored Sunday evening at a dinner at Aldario’s Restaurant, hosted by the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.
Six young women vied for the title of Miss Emerald Isle, who reigns over the annual parade. All of them scored top scores in the interview process, said organizer Marty Hardiman. But Julia stood out in terms of her passion for her Irish heritage.
Gina Raucci, last year’s Miss Emerald Isle and a member of the selection panel this year, agreed with Hardiman.
“She came in with high spirits, shook everybody’s hands and was really excited about her Irish heritage,” Gina said.
Julia, 16, said she has always considered her Irish ancestry to be a big part of who she is. Her grandmother, Rita Gallagher, is 100% Irish, with family hailing from Sligo and Limerick.
“I thought this would be a great experience and let me share my Irish heritage with the community,” she said.
Her favorite part about being Irish? “The food,” she said with a smile. “I love anything with potatoes.”
Julia has a wide variety of interests. She is an honor student who hopes to study criminal psychology once she graduates from high school. At Foran, she is a member of the Key Club and DECA, and she runs cross country and does track.
She also likes to read. Her favorite author is Edgar Allen Poe. She likes to draw and paint, and she plays the guitar and taught herself to play the ukulele.
Since she grew up in Milford, Julia has been to many St. Patrick’s Day parades, and she wanted to be crowned Miss Emerald Isle from a young age.
She is the daughter of Ron and Bernadette Gaul, and she has two brothers, Ronnie, 14, and Shawn, 11.
Kevin McGrath, the grand marshal, has been involved in the community for many years as a Democratic Town Committee chairman, YMCA board member, fire commissioner, and president of the Kiwanis Club.
Hardiman said McGrath, whose family tree is rooted in Ireland and Scotland, was the perfect choice for grand marshal because of all the volunteer work he’s done for the city.
“His daughter called me last year and recommended him, but it was too late in the process, so this year I called him in,” Hardiman said.
McGrath owns The Original Toy Company, located in Milford. He and his wife, Susan, have two grown children, Erin and Kevin Jr.
Erin said she was pretty adamant that her father should be the parade grand marshal.
“He’s just always been involved with the city,” Erin said. “But the volunteer work he does, he’s always under the radar. I thought it would be nice for him to be recognized.”
McGrath said he was very surprised to learn he is this year’s grand marshal. “I’m very honored to get it,” he said.
There are several other events leading up to the annual parade, all designed to raise money to offset parade costs.
There will be a night of Irish comedy at Crush Sports Cafe Saturday, Feb. 22, at 8. Tickets are $10, and there will be a cash bar. Tickets may be purchased by contacting Chris McEnerney at 203-376-0931 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A pancake breakfast will take place Sunday, March 9, from 8 to 1 at the Masonic Hall in downtown Milford. Tickets are $7. Reservations are not required.
The parade will be Saturday, March 15, stepping off at 1 in downtown Milford.