This year's parade stayed dry! It was overcast but very comfortable and the rain stayed away. We had over 160 official entrants and many more that showed up to march.
2016 Parade Queen
Piper Hailey Gay
Piper Hailey Gay is a junior at Virgil I. Grissom High School in Huntsville, AL where she is a cadet in the Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps program. Her rank is Master Sergeant. She was nominated in 2015 to go to the Washington Journalism and Media Conference, where she earned a college credit in Journalism and earned a scholarship if she decides to attend George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She enjoyed experiencing college life while living in a dorm for a week at the Conference. Piper plans to attend college upon completion of high school and major in Communications.
Originally Piper hails from Long Beach, California. In July of 2012 her family moved to Huntsville from the big city life of sunny California, but they have fallen in love with the beauty and serenity of Alabama. Piper has always been a nature lover, enjoying hiking and running. Huntsville provides a natural environment to enjoy her hobbies.
Over the past year she has volunteered for several community service events with the JROTC at Grissom: the Special Olympics, Veteran Wreath Laying at Maple Hill Cemetery, Rocket City Triathlon, The Y 5k Run, Education Celebration, and the Warrior 5k. Each of those events taught her about leadership and respect. At the Special Olympics she got to see how full of life and happy the participants were no matter what the outcome. The wreath laying helped her see all the people that had served their country and how many had been willing to lay down their life for the freedom that we enjoy everyday. She also has the pleasure of getting to work with children in Vacation Bible School at Farley Community Church. This strengthens her faith seeing how strong the kids are with their faith and seeing them so excited to learn more about their faith. It also teaches her patience to work with children. Piper volunteered again at Santa's Village at Constitution Village, lifting her Christmas spirit. Being able to witness so many kids excited to see Santa is an uplifting experience. Piper volunteers extensively for the Irish Society of North Alabama which promotes Irish culture in the community at events like: the Irish Event at the Round House Depot, Panoply Arts Festival, and the International Festival at UAH. She also had the privilege to go along with her mother and transport three dogs from a shelter to two different rescue organizations. This experience taught her the compassion people have for animals and has helped her grow her own compassion as well.
Piper’s favorite part of the Irish culture is the sense of independence and the folk stories. She has always felt that her own sense of independence comes from her Irish ancestors. She loves the history of Irish fighting for their Independence from the British. Piper also has a love for the storytelling aspect of the Irish culture, she loves to read about the Irish folklore. Piper is honored to represent her Irish heritage as the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen.
Abigail Callahan Amis
Congratulations to all these lucky ladies!
2016 Grand Marshal
Michael Bollinger is the founding and current President of the Irish Society of North Alabama established in 2010 to promote the Irish culture in Northern Alabama through Education, Dance, Music, and the Arts. He has led the involvement of the Society in holding concerts, participating in International festivals, sharing Irish culture and heritage with local civic groups and schools, and providing Irish Society support to raise funds for numerous charities to include Still Serving Veterans and United Cerebral Palsy of Huntsville. He is very proud that the Irish Society has been instrumental in organizing and continuing on the Ellen McAnnelly Memorial St. Patrick's Day parade since 2011. With 2016 marking its 39th year!
Michael is also the founding and current President of the Father Trecy Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) that was established in 2011, which is one of only two divisions in Alabama, representing a national Irish Catholic organization with over 100,000 members that promote Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity. The AOH was established in America in 1836 and traces its roots to similar organizations in Ireland since the 1500s. The Father Trecy Division is completing their first major fundraiser supporting St. Baldrick's and has already raised over $11,000 in donations for childhood cancer research.
Michael is very humbled and honored to serve as the Grand Marshal for 2016 since it marks the Irish Rising Centenary. One of the AOH primary platforms is the peaceful unification of Ireland. And, the first step was taken over 100 years ago when brave men and women took a stand against England for self-determination of the Irish people after a long 800 years of atrocity. Those leaders and many of those that fought were executed, but their determination inspired the Irish to continue the cause toward self-determination that eventually established the Republic of Ireland which includes 26 out of the 32 counties of Ireland, with peace occurring throughout Ireland and between Ireland and England.
Michael is also known for establishing and running the Maggie McGuinness Pub, which is a private Irish Pub that does not serve or sell food or drink, but only opens on occasion to provide a traditional Irish Pub environment for Irish Society and AOH events, concerts, fundraisers, and other events that have included talks by Irish authors and Irish diplomats among other interesting items in its 15 years of history. The Maggie McGuinness Pub was started in 2001 in Annandale, VA and when Michael and his family moved for work to Huntsville, AL in 2007, they reopened it in Huntsville, AL that eventually led to talks at events that resulted in both the Irish Society and the AOH division being established here in Huntsville.
Michael is a native of San Antonio, TX and, yes, with a lot of Texas Pride, but he is very humbled and honored to now be a 9 year resident of Huntsville, AL and is always incredibly in awe and impressed by the Huntsville community. He finds it inspiring how much that they do for each other and how willing they are to contribute to continue to improve and make Huntsville even greater! He is incredibly honored to be married to his wife Lisa who took the shoulder load of the Irish Society work in the early days and stepped up to be the Parade Chairperson and continues to serve in that capacity. In addition, she is a member of Arts Huntsville supporting numerous educational and community events throughout Huntsville and has also been active supporting Veterans organizations. Michael also has two sons that he is incredibly proud of, Michael Robert (11) and Mason (8). Michael Robert can play the Irish tin whistle and Mason once served as a leprechaun in the parade!
As Michael says, March is the Grandest Month of the year and tis nothing finer than a St. Patrick's Day parade! He hopes everyone comes out and enjoys some Mighty CRAIC (irish for good times)! And, as he always says, a Mighty Mighty To the IRISH to one and all! To the IRISH!!!!