Wheaton teacher is queen of 60th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade

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The queen has been crowned.

On Sunday afternoon, Lauren Corry, a 28-year-old teacher at Edison Middle School in Wheaton, was named St. Patrick’s Day Parade queen.

Her father is 100 percent Irish, with roots in Kilkee in County Clare. Her mother is mostly German with a bit of Dutch and Swiss, she said.

She visited Ireland in 2013 with two former parade queens. “It was the most amazing trip,” she said.

Corry is engaged to Scott Nielsen, whose roots are Swedish and Slovenian. She wasn’t sure she could enter the contest because she was engaged, but that didn’t disqualify her. Contestants must be unmarried, have Irish ancestry and be 18 to 28 years old.

She was chosen during the annual Queen Contest — a five-round process overseen by a panel of 22 judges who whittled 65 contestants down to a queen and four others who will comprise the queen’s court.

“The women were all dressed up in green dresses and high heels,” said Jim Coyne, general chairman of the St. Patrick’s Day parade and business manager of Chicago Plumbers Local 130, which sponsors the parade.

“We’re very excited. She was in the queen’s court the last couple years and she’s a phenomenal young lady. I know she is going to represent us very well,” Coyne said.

“It’s always nerve-wracking,” Corry said of the contest. Being crowned was overwhelming.

“I cried so much,” she said. “It still really hasn’t sunk in.”

Round one is a see-and-be-seen experience in which contestants merely walk across a stage and smile. During round two, contestants introduce themselves and say why they want to be queen. Round three entails more eye contact, trying to look professional and showing judges you can walk in heels. Round four is kind of like speed dating, Corry said. “You meet as many judges as possible and leave an impression.” In round five, the five remaining contestants have more in-depth conversations with judges.

Corry works as a portrait artist when she’s not teaching. She mostly paints people and pets.

Prizes for the queen include two round-trip tickets to Ireland, about $1,500 in cash prizes, jewelry, Waterford crystal and Eli’s cheesecake, among other items.

About 500 people filled Plumbers Hall to watch the contest Sunday.

“The Queen Contest is a big party,” said Michele Scaccia-Coyne, marketing consultant for the parade.

The queen and her court will ride on a float at the parade, which kicks off at noon March 14 on Columbus Drive from Balbo to Monroe. They also will attend civic, neighborhood and Irish events on behalf of the parade committee.

It will be the 60th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade sponsored by Plumbers Local 130. The union’s members are the ones who dye the Chicago River green.

Celebrations honoring the new queen will continue Monday at Emmit’s Irish Pub, 495 N. Milwaukee Ave., Scaccia-Coyne said.

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