Alissa Kurke of Anoka was crowned Miss Shamrock last week by the St. Patrick’s Association in St. Paul.
Being a member of St. Pat’s royalty meant participating in a whirlwind of activities all weekend, including the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown St. Paul, which is put on by the St. Patrick’s Association. She, along with Mr. Pat Joe Bennett, who serves as the king figure for the parade, were crowned March 15.
Along with the parade, the pair also led the procession at St. Paul Cathedral’s St. Patrick’s Day Mass.
Kurke, a 2004 graduate of Anoka High School, learned about the group through a friend of a friend. Not only did it sound like a lot of fun, she was impressed by the organization’s charity work.
Last year the St. Patrick’s Association was able to cover the costs of the $17,000 St. Patrick’s Day parade, along with donating $11,200 to a long list of charities.
“Some of those charities were near and dear to my heart,” said Kurke, 26.
This included support of the American Diabetes Association, in which Kurke has a particular interest because her brother has juvenile diabetes.
This is the first time that Kurke, who ran track at Mankato State University, has competed for any type of crown.
For the past two months, Kurke and the 20 other princesses vying for the title of Miss Shamrock participated in a number of fund-raising and volunteer activities.
On Friday and Saturday nights the group visited St. Paul bars doing “button blitzes” where they sold buttons for the association’s main fund-raiser.
The group also did visits to area nursing homes, hospices and group homes for adults with disabilities.
Kurke has become a passionate advocate for the St. Patrick’s Association, a non-profit that she says does wonderful charitable work in addition to putting on the parade.
“This is a group of people who get involved only to be able to give back,” said Kurke, who works as a project manager for Data Recognition Corp. in Maple Grove.
She was named Miss Shamrock by eligible voting members of the association.
“I don’t think it was an easy decision for them,” she said. “It was really a great group of girls.”
Over the past couple of months she said she has met many new friends.
“The princesses are all really wonderful and I think some of them are going to be my best friends,” said Kurke. “The people have been so amazing I can’t imagine not being a part of this.”
When Kurke applied to the program, she told organizers she has a deep love for all things that celebrate her Irish culture.
Her parents, Joe and Kathleen Kurke, both are of Irish heritage.
“From my grandfather who was once suspended from DeLaSalle High School for dying his hair green on St. Patrick’s Day, to my parents who would enthusiastically drink green beer any day of the week if we would let them, I was born to celebrate this holiday,” wrote Kurke.
She says she was raised by two Irish temperaments which resulted in her being headstrong, slightly stubborn, a little loud and very outgoing.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at firstname.lastname@example.org