‘I get called Queen Gabby’

2/24/2017 | Chris Maza

Category: February

West Springfield Colleen Gabrielle Trudeau
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza

West Side’s Colleen relishes opportunity

Since she was very young, Gabrielle Trudeau wanted to be the West Springfield Colleen.

“Watching as a little girl as the parade goes by, you see the beautiful girls with the big crowns and the sashes on the float,” she recalled. “Ever since then I’ve wanted to be the Colleen.”

But even as her name was announced at the Cead Mile Failte on Feb. 4, she didn’t quite believe that it had actually happened.

“I had no idea they were going to say my name,” she said. “My jaw literally dropped and I turned to my friend Abby, who’s also in the court, and had to ask her if they actually said my name.”

Now that it is setting in, her friends and family are having almost as much fun with it as she is.

“I get called ‘Queen Gabby,’ which I’m not mad about,” she laughed, pointing at her crown. “They’re all very excited.”

Trudeau admitted she felt a bit like a queen at the Mayor’s Winter Carnival the following weekend.

“Meeting all of the new people has been very exciting. We met so many people who literally know who I am now. It’s great,” she said.

With that excitement, however, she recognizes there’s responsibility involved with the honor of being the Colleen.

“Keeping up the image and remembering that I’m representing the town and the Irish community here in West Springfield. That’s my biggest responsibility,” she said.

Trudeau, a senior at West Springfield High  School, is well-qualified to lead her court in representing the town. A Renaissance and National Honors Society student and recipient of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship Award, she said she plans to attend a four-year college, though she’s unsure as to what field she intends to pursue.

As a representative of the Irish community, she has been a regular contributor as a member of Irish Cultural Club and took part in the Ireland Exchange Program in April 2016.

She’s also supported the town through her work with the Lions Club at The Big E, helping the Boys and Girls Club through its Holiday Tour of Homes, and assisting in the repainting of the map at Mittineague Elementary School. At West Springfield High School, she is secretary of the Key Club, treasurer of the National Honors Society and captain of the varsity lacrosse and field hockey teams.

Seeing the parade from atop the St. Patrick’s Committee of West Springfield float this year, she’s joined by a court of Vanessa Bonebo, Lindsay Gearty, Abigail Bourque and Abrielle Wellspeak.

“I think it looks like they’re going to be a great representation of West Springfield. This is my 31st year, so I think I can say that with confidence,” said St. Patrick’s Committee President Maryruth Kane. “They’re all friends outside of this and they all joined as friends and now they’re having a blast and I’m excited for them.”

Trudeau concurred, “I’m actually friends with all of the girls on the court. They’re great. We’re definitely going to have a lot of fun. I could not have picked a better court.  They’re awesome. They’re a great group of girls.”

The Colleen and her court will make their way down the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade route on a float designed by another strong representative of West Springfield – eighth grader Amila Jusufbegovic.

Float Chairman Chris Thompson explained that for last year’s parade, the committee decided to launch a design contest through which middle school students could draw design concepts for the float. That first year they garnered 27 entries.

This year, Jusufbegovic’s design beat out more than 60 applicants.

“It’s her design. It’s her baby. Yeah, there’s some tweaking going on here or there but it’s pretty much on her, we’ve just adapted it do get things to flow a little bit easier,” Thompson said. “This is the next generation, so we need to start getting them involved and I think this has been a great way to do that.”

Jusufbegovic has certainly been ready and willing to get involved in what Kane described at “Floatbuilding 101.”

While the group building the float remained mum on the actual design, the intrepid middle schooler said it was extremely gratifying to see her design coming to life and she’s learned maybe a little bit more than she bargained for.

“I learned not to use a power saw. I have bonded and bled with the float,” she said with a smile.

Kane also noted Jusufbegovic has had the opportunity to spend time with Trudeau and her court as well, another positive experience.

“She’s already asking them what she needs to do to be part of it,” Kane said.

For anyone considering the Colleen experience, Trudeau said her message is simple.

“Definitely do it,” she said. “So far the last week or so has been one of the best experiences of my life. Meeting all of these new people and sharing the common bond of being Irish and wanting to celebrate that Irish heritage is just amazing. I would recommend it to anyone.”

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