With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, the North County Chamber of Commerce honors someone they feel lucky to have in the community of Plattsburgh at its annual breakfast.
“Years ago, some people thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to name someone Irishman of the Year?’” Jody Parks, executive vice president of the North County Chamber of Commerce, said. “So they started this breakfast, and they made it this big Irish celebration, and at the end they read this royal order.”
The last paragraph of the royal order alludes to who the Irishman of the Year is, then finally, reveals who it is. Unlike most awards the Chamber presents, this one is a secret from the winner.
“There are people that have won the award that are just so shocked that the entire community is behind them and appreciative of what they do,” Parks said. “The face of the Irishman of the year when their name is called is so much fun to see the look of shock on their face and they always say ‘How come you didn’t tell me?’”
Winners are sometimes drawn in by telling them their attendance is needed for a different reason.
“We’ve had some good surprises,” past emcee Kevin Killeen said. “Jack Leduke from WCAX was standing right next to me filming, and we gave him the award. That was pretty cool.”
The breakfast is a deeply rooted tradition. Parks said it has been around for 61 years, maintaining the same agenda including a blessing, invocation, someone introducing past Irishmen of the year in attendance, the singing of Irish songs such as “Danny Boy” by Frederic Weatherly, and a traditional Irish blessing at the end.
One of the only parts that varies year to year are the jokes supplied by the MC.
“There are tons of jokes and laughter and fun,” Parks said. “The MC is really the one that makes it entertaining.”
Killeen was the MC for the breakfast for 21 years. He collects jokes to add to his set throughout the year in a file, which he later tailors to the Plattsburgh community.
“I listen to a couple of Irish comedians, that helps except they curse sometimes so you have to be careful since its live on the radio,” Killeen said. “But normally, people just feel compelled to tell me jokes so we’ll just bend them a little bit to fit with the local people, have a little fun.”
About 450 people, a large portion of them community members, attend the breakfast and look forward to it each year.
“A lot of people that come that have been coming for many many years, so it’s something that they put on their schedule every year,” Parks said. “It’s an event that they can’t miss because they love it so much.”
The buffet breakfast will take place Monday 7:30 to 9 a.m. in the Angell College Center Warren Ballroom. Tickets are $36 for individuals and $280 for a corporate table.