NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Bernadette Smyth LaFrance is the Executive Chairman of the Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the first female to take hold of the role.
While she didn’t start at the top, she did start in a different, more special role: parade queen.
“I’m especially proud of the fact that the first girl who earned her stripes and went all the way to the top in the organization is a parade queen,” LaFrance told News 8.
LaFrance wore the crown in 1994. She said the role gives young women confidence and opportunity “Because you’ve decided it’s time for you to give back and be part of the community in a way you haven’t before.”
For her, it began a commitment to the Parade Committee. She’s worn a variety of hats — even a top hat — as Grand Marshal.
“It really is in the family blood,” she said, noting her parents grew up in Ireland and were staunch supporters of the New Haven Football and Hurling Gaelic Club, a popular gathering spot.
“This club was a home away from home for all of the immigrants.”
As she’s settled into the job of executive chairman, this mom of three sons is grateful for support from her family, the gentlemen in the committee and her fellow queens.
“It just felt right to celebrate the victory with all of them,” she said.
After all, picture after picture shows meaningful friendships and a passion for tradition.
The women, joyful to re-visit a special time in life, as they embrace their friend, shining in a new way, paving a fresh path for the future.
“It’s truly humbling, truly humbling,” said LaFrance. “For me to be able to add another achievement to our family’s name makes me feel especially proud.”