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World Irish Dance Championships Beckon for South Side Irish Parade Queen

 Alison Kelly, 18, of suburban Evergreen Park has been named the queen of the 2016 South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade. She has been Irish dancing for 14 years and will compete in an international championship the weekend after the parade.
Alison Kelly, 18, of suburban Evergreen Park has been named the queen of the 2016 South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade. She has been Irish dancing for 14 years and will compete in an international championship the weekend after the parade.
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Katie Ryan Photography

BEVERLY — Alison Kelly will have to get used to being driven along the route of the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade

Kelly — the 2016 South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade Queen — would be much more in her element Irish dancing March 13 down Western Avenue from 103rd to 115th streets.

"It's going to be weird just waving to everybody," said Kelly, who began Irish dancing at age 4.

In fact, Kelly will compete in the 2016 World Irish Dancing Championships in Glasgow, Scotland the weekend after the parade. She qualified for the international competition on Nov. 27 at a regional event in Minneapolis.

Irish dance "is very crazy — very competitive. There's lots of glitz and glamor," said Kelly, a biology student at Moraine Valley Community College in suburban Palos Hills.

 Alison Kelly (l.) was named queen of the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade Saturday. Her reign follows Mary Kate Love (r.) of Beverly who served as the 2015 queen.
Alison Kelly (l.) was named queen of the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade Saturday. Her reign follows Mary Kate Love (r.) of Beverly who served as the 2015 queen.
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Kelly, 18, of suburban Evergreen Park was actually named parade queen while recovering from an Irish dance-related ankle injury she suffered eight days ago. She was crowned Saturday night wearing an orthopedic boot.

The latest injury likely dates back to previous incident where she tore a pair of ligaments in her ankle while leaping during a competition, said Kelly, who trains five days a week at the Mulhern School of Irish Dance in suburban Westmont.

She believes her dedication to Irish dance set her apart from the 18 other girls who were vying for the crown at the preparade fundraiser held Saturday at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park.

This dedication often sees Kelly at practice for 3-5 hours at a time. She also teaches at the school and has competed across the country as well as in Canada and Ireland. Last year, she even auditioned for "Riverdance" in Ireland. Kelly was called back for a second round of competition but was unable to move on due to injury.

Parade royalty also runs in Kelly's blood. She is a distant relative of Lauren Catinella, who served as the queen for the downtown St. Patrick's Day parade in 2014.

Catinella, who was named queen after a decade of vying for the crown, even lent her the green dress she wore when she selected as queen. It once again proved lucky.

"I saw how much fun she had with it," Kelly said.

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