Hart named Irish Rose, Schmidts are Grand Marshals
By John Faucher
St. Patrick’s parade-goers in “New Dublin” will see some familiar faces leading this year’s parade, set to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 18.
Jill Hart is this year’s Irish Rose.
Hart has directed the St. Patrick’s parade in New Dublin for the past 22 years.
The longtime Shamrock Club member begins her work on the parade a year ahead of time to ensure everything goes smoothly for the largest St. Patrick’s Parade in the state.
During the parade, Hart and a group of volunteers works the sidelines keeping things organized and on schedule.
The parade has over 100 entries, and draws an estimated 30,000 spectators.
Hart says this year’s parade will include two high school marching bands, four bagpipe bands, the UW Marching Band and the popular South Shore Drill Team.
“They are such an awesome grand finale for the parade,” said Hart. “It’s like having fireworks.”
When Hart took on the role as parade director, she sought to expand the parade to include several larger acts. She approached the Shamrock Club for more parade funding.
“At that time we didn’t have a lot of start-up money,” she said. “We went for it and things have just blown up since then.”
This year will be a little different for Hart.
She and Irish Man of the Year, Jerome O’Neil (profiled in last week’s Press Star), will lead the parade, as well as this year’s Grand Marshals Mickey and Wally Schmidt.
“Mickey and Wally are great people,” said Hart. “They have always been great supporters of New Dublin.”
The Schmidts said Judy McDaniel called to inform them they had been named this year’s grand marshals.
“We were surprised,” said Wally Schmidt. “It’s something we never expected whatsoever.”
“We have come to know how valuable the Shamrock Club is to the community. It is not just the parade; it’s all of the things the Shamrock Club has done for the community,” said Schmidt. It’s great to be part of something that has done so much for this town.”
The Schmidts also are involved with the Wolf River Theatrical Troupe and the Friends of the New London Public Museum.
Their love of the arts and history have been a focal point of their 50 years of marriage.
They also share a compassion for those less fortunate.
For their 50th anniversary last September, they asked friends and family not to bring gifts.
“Really, who needs stuff after 50 years of marriage?” said Mickey Schmidt.
Instead of gifts, they asked everyone to bring something for the local food pantry.
“It was a bonus because we didn’t have all this stuff, and the food pantry got a truck load of food. It was a win-win,” said Mickey.
The Schmidts host an annual St. Patrick’s party before the parade begins.
Their large historic home is located right near the parade’s starting point on Pearl Street.
They have had up to 200 visitors come through their historic home on parade day. Irish food and drink is served and folks can stay warm before the parade.
Shamrock Club dignitaries are invited and pinned with flowers before being taken to their vehicles for the start of the parade.
The Schmidt’s ask friends to bring an item for the local food pantry.
“We are fortunate enough to be able to put on this party. However, there are so many people in this area that don’t have this food,” said Mickey.
After St. Patrick’s weekend, they Schmidts gather up the food collected and bring it to the local food pantry. This year, two organizations are partnering with the Schmidts and will match pound for pound the food collected.