This time next week, a new queen and four princesses will have been crowned and will be well on their way to ably representing the community through the season.
This year marks the 61st anniversary of the Queen’s Selection. In recognition of sixty years of holding this event, last year the United Irish Societies invited queens and princesses from years gone by to attend and to be recognized on stage during the evening.
In 1956 when the first Queen’s Pageant was held, Patricia Ann Craig was nominated at the Sailors’ Club in Old Montreal. The Queen’s Pageant was then held at the Queen’s Hotel on Peel Street, where the United Irish Societies held St. Patrick’s celebrations. In 1962 the event was held at a radio station in Verdun, followed by a reception hosted by the City of Verdun. On March 1st 1963 the pageant was held in the auditorium of St Mary’s Hospital with 56 contestants competing. In 1965 it was held at Verdun Catholic High School. Two complimentary tickets to Ireland were donated to the Queen by Aer Lingus. In 1970 the pageant was held at the Windsor Hotel Ballroom. In 1973 the queen and her court had to be rescued from an elevator in the Windsor Hotel on parade day. The Montreal Fire Department came to their rescue and they were rushed to the parade. In 1977 there were 66 contestants. In 1983 the pageant was held in the Regency Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel on University Street. In 1985 the event was held at the Meridien Hotel. In 2002 the Queen’s float was moved to the mid section of the parade. It had traditionally been the last float of the parade but the television coverage by Global TV had a time limit and accommodations were made. In 2004 the Parade Queen, Tara Hecksher, was sprayed at the Reviewing Stand with white paint by an unknown assailant. Her maturity and composure in handling the incident was commendable. In 2007 the Selection Evening was held at Buffet Sorrento in LaSalle.
After a period of stability in terms of the event’s location, for the first time since 2007 the Selection Evening is being held in a different location. In an odd twist of fate the event is going full circle. The new location is the same as the old location, but under a different name. The Plaza Centreville, formerly the Delta Centreville Hotel, is located at 777 rue Robert-Bourassa, which was renamed from University in honour of the late former Premier of Quebec.
The young ladies who have participated in the event have come a long way from 1956. Their experience from participation has brought them many friends in the community and opportunities to their lives and careers. Once a popularity contest whereby the participant with the loudest applause was declared the winner, the present day Selection Evenings are public speaking contests judged by seven distinguished members of the community.
As with all events organized by the United Irish Societies, everyone from the organization working on the event is a volunteer. Each should be commended for his/her volunteerism and community involvement.
Moving ahead with technology, for the first time in its history the United Irish Societies is offering for sale on its website tickets to the Selection Evening. If you haven’t already purchased yours, head on over to our website and secure yours today.
Ken Quinn, Historian
(with files from Don Pidgeon)