PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Saturday continues one of its treasured traditions of honoring Miss Smiling Irish Eyes.
In the Pittsburgh-Irish Community, it’s become a high award for young women.
“Growing up, my Irish heritage is really strong, and I’m so proud to share it with everybody,” 2020’s Miss Smiling Irish Eyes Queen 19-year-old Slippery Rock University student Stephanie O’Donnell said.
Serving on her court are 19-year old Penn State University student Kelly Bench and 18-year old Taylor Allderdice student Courtney McGinley.
“It’s just such a wonderful experience,” McGinley said.
“Being a little girl, I saw these older girls ahead of me get the honor,” O’ Donnell said. “It’s something I should be very proud of.”
They were selected by a committee that received about 25 applications this year.
The young women are judged in several categories including their resumes, involvement in the Irish community, and their grades.
“All the little girls who are dancers in the parade standing on the sidelines look at it like the ultimate honor of being an Irish girl in Pittsburgh,” Peggy Cooney, who is part of Miss Smiling Irish Committee said.
The tradition goes back to the 1960’s and has grown deep roots in the Pittsburgh-Irish community.
“To the point where my grandmother, I called her to let her know that I had won, and she had already heard on the Irish hour,” Bench said.
Several past winners have gone on to become prominent business and community leaders.
Some are the faces you have welcomed into your home like former KDKA-TV news anchor Pattie Burns.
“I believe she was back in 1968 or 1969. Right now, Meghan Schiller that’s with KDKA-TV was a Miss Smiling Irish Eyes,” Cooney said.
Saturday will be an honor for O’Donnell, McGinley, and Bench as they ride through Downtown with thousands of people admiring them.
“I can’t wait to see my family and friends on the sidelines waving me on and being with these two girls,” McGinley said with a smile.
More information about Miss Smiling Irish Eyes and how you can apply can be found online.