Miss Smiling Irish Eyes crowned

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A sea of kelly green, shamrock adornments and the lilting sound of bagpipes ushered in the coronation of Miss Smiling Irish Eyes 2014.

Ciara Scanlon Crossey was crowned Friday by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at a luncheon at the Rivers Club.

Joining the Miss Smiling Irish Eyes court was Kelsey Newcamp, 18, of Gibsonia and Kathryn Bench, 18, of McMurray.

With only a quick pause to flip around the tiara, Mr. Fitzgerald crowned Ms. Crossey and congratulated members of the court on their accomplishments. In fairness, Mr. Fitzgerald probably has limited tiara experience.

Sporting capes, sashes and, of course, smiling eyes, the young women became part of a Pittsburgh tradition that dates back more than half a century. They will participate in the St. Patrick's Day Parade today.

"It's exciting for Kelsey, Katie and Ciara. They represent the future of the region," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "You hear the giving back and service they do. ... It puts me in an optimistic mood for where the future is going."

Candidates for the Miss Smiling Irish Eyes title must have Irish heritage, academic achievement and dedicated involvement in the Irish community.

Since the first Miss Smiling Irish Eyes was crowned more than 50 years ago, honorees have promoted Irish and Irish-American causes all over the area, said Peggy Cooney, chairwoman for the committee.

"She's a very faith-based young lady," Ms. Cooney said of Ms. Crossey's selection. "We were very impressed with her leadership skills."

Ms. Crossey, 19, is fourth-generation Irish-American. She began Irish dancing at age 6 when she joined with a cousin and performed with the Pittsburgh Irish Reelers and danced throughout high school.

A lover of her heritage from an early age, Ms. Crossey and her cousin used to perform the dances in their grandmother's basement.

"I loved it. I made some of the best memories dancing," she said. "It's really enabled me to celebrate my heritage."

While a student at Bishop Canevin High School, she was the president of the school's chapter of the Junior Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, the oldest Irish-American fraternal organization in the country.

The Crafton native is a freshman at John Carroll University in Ohio. She is studying communications and wants to pursue journalism.

At John Carroll, she founded the school's chapter of Students With Diabetes to connect diabetic students like herself and educate others about the condition. She also writes for The Carroll News, the school's newspaper.

Ms. Crossey is the daughter of Greg and Mary Crossey and sister to Liam, Aidan, Finn and Nevan.

"This is such a huge honor and truly a surprise," Ms. Crossey said. "I feel very blessed that my family has allowed me to celebrate my Irish heritage my whole life and I've been given this opportunity to celebrate being Irish."

Lauren Lindstrom: llindstrom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1964.

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