Saturday, March 16th 2:45pm
Rows of long tables covered in Kelly green linens line the inside of the Flynn Cruiseport. Maureen Kilcommons and Michaela Collins place small cardboard signs that read Cead Mile Failte on the center of each table. The legendary event planner, Dusty Rhodes makes an announcement that rehearsal for the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast will start in 20 minutes. Going over logistics with Senator Nick Collins is Maggie McCarthy Baxter. She is producing the breakfast for NECN. There is an energy surging through the vast and open cruise ship terminal. Like many great events of South Boston’s past, a strong, organized, hard-working group of women are the backbone.
This is Senator Nick Collins inaugural hosting of the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast and he has surrounded himself with a tribe of impressive females to create this legendary event. “I felt like it was important because I have a lot of strong women in my life and they all play a leadership role in organizing this event. From catering, to logistics, to event management to the music, to tomorrow’s speakers – they all have experience,” says Collins. “We want it to be and feel inclusive.”
New Host, new venue, new vibe
With Collins at the helm, he also wants to put his own stamp on the breakfast. New host, new venue, new vibe.
The Flynn Cruiseport was selected to honor the scores of immigrants who came to Boston’s shore in search of the American Dream – including over 30,000 immigrants from Ireland (in 1847 alone). The first floor of the terminal will be transformed into a mini-museum dedicated to the rich history of the cruiseport including a collection of historical photographs, documents, and statistics created by Boston City Archives. To add to the Irish culture, South Boston native and artist Dan McCole will be the resident artist creating artwork as part of the exhibit. The Angland Family Band from county Kerry will play and the singing of the national anthem of Ireland will be performed by Pauline Wells, deputy superintendent of the Cambridge Police Department. Greenhills Bakery will be serving traditional Irish scones and the Adams Corner Cafe and Irish Butcher shop will be supplying the breakfast. A woman owned and operated union company called Seasons Catering from Hyde Park will be catering the event.
“Holding this year’s event at the Ray Flynn Cruiseport gives a fresh perspective on a landmark many pass most days and do not even think twice about. In the mid 1800s, the cruiseport was an entry way into Boston and a new life. People are once again, flocking to South Boston in search of a new life,”says Michaela Collins. “I think celebrating the old and embracing the new makes this space the perfect venue. I’m thrilled to be a part of it,” she adds.
Transforming a space
To turn Collins’ vision into a reality, this event had to be planned then executed. Every table, chair, Irish flag bunting, green linen, and lighting had to be brought in. “From the larger scale things like lighting to small thoughts like a desk and chairs for people behind the scenes, everything has to be planned for. We started with just the bare bones so we are building from the ground up” says Taylor Jacobs, special events account executive with Conventures. She adds, “It’s rewarding to see the transformation.”
Waiting on the sidelines, Linda Dorcena Forry, former host and state senator was there to rehearse her introduction of Collins. “I know the work that goes into this event. It’s not easy,” says Forry. “It’s about balance, timing and even where to seat family, friends, VIP’s and I’m happy to help in any way I can.”
It’s all about the details
Jennifer Jackson, former aide to Senator Jack Hart, who has assisted with the planning and execution of many-a-breakfast, is also on hand to help. “There are so many elements to prepare. From fulfilling the catering order, sending out invitations to an extensive guest list to the coordination of speakers, there a lot to be done. The day of the event, Jackson, along with Cazneen Benjamin, legislative aide to Collins, will handle the stressful task of guest check-in and seating.
St. Patrick’s/Evacuation Heritage Fund
This will be Ellie Kasper’s first breakfast. “It wasn’t that long ago when women weren’t allowed at the breakfast. It was strictly a mens event,” says Kasper. Kasper is now the president of the St. Patrick’s/Evacuation Day Heritage Fund – a new non-profit to raise funds for the event. Normally, it’s a scramble for the host to raise funds to pay for the breakfast but with this new organization it will take the pressure off and give the organizers piece of mind. “We’re working towards creating a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” adds Kasper.
Keep it flowing
Ceferina Murrell is keeping the flow of the day moving. As chief of staff for Collins, she’s used to juggling, putting out fires, and handling the senator. “It’s a balancing act for sure – making sure logistically that things will run smoothly. That VIPs have seats. That Nick feels confident on the day of the event. I do my best to keep him out of the weeds,” says Murrell.
Then, Murrell politely asks, with authority, that everyone who is not directly involved with the breakfast to leave so the rehearsal can officially begin. People begin to leave the room. Music can be heard being played by female fiddlers Alanna and Julia Tryder – also a first for the breakfast. Over 100 talented people have worked on this event – a large amount of them women serving as a strong foundation.
“I couldn’t pull something like this off without their help. I owe it all to them,” says Collins.
Photo via Moss Lynch