Columbus Irish: President Shuman Reveals Parade Badge Design
By: Molly Truex
Not letting 2021 obstacles and slowly recovering from a global pandemic slow him down from kicking off Green Season, Shamrock Club of Columbus President Andy Shuman unveiled his St. Patrick’s Day Parade Badge at the February 7th, General Membership Meeting. This is always a much anticipated and well-loved tradition within the club, as funds from badge sales raise money to support the parade on March 17.
The first badge was sold in 1980, under Past President Joseph Byrne, and has been a staple since. While designs have varied over the years, one thing remains that same, celebration of both the patron saint, and our Irish heritage.
President Shuman presented his badge design with this small speech: “I didn’t want the badge to be just my story. We sell badges to support a parade venerating Saint Patrick, not me. I wanted it to be fun too; like Sandy Beach’s drawings. I took memories from a very disconnected year and tried to represent those moments. The background is Columbus, the year is featured in tri-color. The man in the middle is from my sponsor ads for McGowen’s Pub. Jeff McGowen helped get me involved in the Club many years ago and wo
uld have loved every bit of this badge. The shamrock and paint on the left represents our Shamrock Campaign (#paintohiogreen). The green shoes could represent me (Shu), but are the famous Dempsey shoes. The tortoise and hare from Bua Irish Whiskey represent the shenanigans that we all enjoy. Finally, ‘The Best is Yet to Come!’ has been my motto. I hope you also connect with these memories and moments. Badges will available for sale in the coming
Parade badges are available of purchase at The Shamrock Club of Columbus, 60 W. Castle Road, or at select bars and restaurants around the Columbus area in the coming weeks. Visit www.shamrockclubofcolumbus.com for more information.
Stepping Up to the Pandemic; Irwin Academy of Irish Dance
Speaking to Katie Irwin Henry about Irish Dance is like sitting down for coffee with an old friend, the kind where you might not be in constant touch, but just pick up right where you left off without missing a beat. We’d met a few times through our friends and connections in the Columbus Irish community, but never had any real conversations of substance.
When I called to talk to her about how the Irwin Academy of Irish Dance has been weathering the global pandemic, any reservations or nervousness were quickly shed, as we chatted about her love of the sport and her passion for passing those skills on to the next generations to come.
Katie started young in Irish dance, “It’s actually a really funny story because I’ve told everyone for so long, I had started when I was five,” Katie started, then explained how her parents had to correct her, telling her that Columbus Irish dancing legend Ann Richens had told them she didn’t think Katie was ready.
They tried again the next year, and agreed it was time to start learning; from then on, Irish dance was a passion. After competing on the national and world level, and learning under 1993 World Champion John Timm, Katie postponed her high school graduation to head to Biloxi and audition for Lord of the Dance.
She was chosen and spent the next two years touring with the group in North America. “There were only three American girls in the group, almost everyone else was Irish or English, and had to travel back home when their work visas were up.”
Taking a break after The Lord of the Dance, Katie auditioned for the Trinity Irish Dance Company and secured a spot, so she moved to Chicago and started touring with them. The tours were shorter, six weeks generally, and enabled a bit more freedom, and time to come home to Ohio.
The company had an arrangement with a restaurant owner, so a lot of the dancers were employed with him, as the schedules were flexible and long leaves of absence were possible. Katie stayed four years with Trinity, her final tour was in Japan.
“It was just breaking my body. I knew I was done,” she stated, recalling having to soak her feet in buckets of ice after performances. “The stages were not set up for dance, most of them were concrete with zero spring. It took a toll on all of us, but I knew I was done touring.”
After returning home to Columbus, it became more evident that Irish dance was going to be a part of her life forever. She started teaching at the Regan Academy with friends Katie Regan and Nicole Ranken (now partnered as the Regan Ranken Holland Academy) and completed her TCRG exams.
“They were such nurturing instructors; I was really blessed to have worked with both of them, Katie said.” It was her first experience teaching as an adult; she realized, “I need to do something on my own.”
After consulting with her friends and coworkers, Katie formed the Irwin Academy of Irish Dance in Gahanna, much closer to her home and family. For eight years she worked at Fado Irish Pub in Easton, as she built her business. Fado is still close to her heart. There is a guest bartending event there every year to raise funds for the dancers and the school, well attended and great craic.
Despite COVID, Katie persisted in building her school, offering virtual lessons with her instructors, and staying in touch and transparent with her students and dance families, with all the struggles present and to come. As the pandemic wore on, several students on many skill levels either dropped out or changed schools and directions.
“I can’t really blame them,” she said, “It’s really the perfect time to try something different; I completely respect that.” Her middle level students have been a real inspiration and have stuck to their learning even through virtual lessons, as well as many of her competition level dancers. It is that commitment and belief in each other that she cherishes most.
When I asked Katie about her goals moving forward through the pandemic, it was all about her students: #1: Getting her girls and boys to nationals in July, and to world regionals in the fall; #2 Getting the kids back into competing and sharing their love of Irish dance.
2021 marks the 10th year of The Irwin Academy of Irish Dance. While usually very private about herself on social media, Katie is branching out and sharing her journey, as well as that of her students.
“My sister-in-law owns a media marketing company and has been a huge help in getting me started with telling our story.” Browsing through the testimonials from the students and parents, they always mention the family feeling of the studio.
When Katie says “our,” she very much means it, this isn’t her story; this is the story of her dance families, her dance friends, of her family and of her Irish heritage. There are many families that have been with the academy from the beginning, building those bonds and family like ties, traveling the country sharing the emotions of wins and losses.
“When you have that sense of community, there is just so much more. And it does not just apply to the dance community; the entire Columbus Irish community bring so much,” said Katie.
You can follow the 10th Anniversary Celebration of The Irwin Academy of Irish Dance on Instagram (@irwinacademy) and can catch them around town celebrating St. Patrick’s Day; sharing Irish dance and that sense of community, with everyone.
The Irwin Academy of Irish Dance 620 Taylor Station Road, Columbus, Ohio 43230. 614-325-5270.
*Molly lives on the east side of Columbus with her family and two aggravating dogs. She has been a member of the Shamrock Club for the past five years.