The First Lady of the St. Patrick’s Festival
On this 50th Saint Patrick’s Day of Dublin, Georgia’s 50th Saint Patrick’s Festival it is only fitting and proper that we take time to salute the First Lady of the Saint Patrick’s Festival. Although she was deservedly recognized by the Order of the Blarney Stone in 1978, this four-decade-long festival volunteer was never recognized as the Woman of the Year nor as the Senior Citizen of the Year. As you will see, Anne Everly was the epitome of the old maxim, “Behind any great man, there is a great woman.”
Anne Middlebrooks Everly’s immeasurable contributions to the Saint Patrick’s Festival began as a matter of coincidence. Everly had just moved back home to Dublin to raise three small children. Early in her career at radio station WMLT, a conversation about a Saint Patrick’s Festival began around the coffee table at the station.
“Right from the beginning, she wanted to be a part of it,” said son Richy Everly. “Mom was drawn to the idea, desperately wanting to be a part of community endeavors in her hometown. She was even elected the historian of the festival before it started,” Everly recalled.
In explaining how the festival began, Anne Everly wrote, “The festival was born of a casual conversation in the coffee room of WMLT radio station. The town’s name - Dublin - was a natural for a Saint Patrick’s festival. The staff of WMLT set out to structure a festival that would bring fun to everyone, young and old - store up happy childhood memories - and give an identity to our town and county.”
WMLT approached Herschel Lovett, Bill Lovett and W.H. Champion of The Dublin Courier Herald to combine their media resources to found and fund a festival until the community itself could take over.
“The first two years of the festival stayed under the wings of its founders and all expenses incurred were paid by the founders. Any monies made by clubs and groups sponsoring events stayed in the clubs’ and groups’ treasuries. The first festival’s twenty events were scheduled in the official ‘Calendar of Events,’ wrote Anne Everly.
The festival gave the hardworking single mother an outlet for social activities, including her favorite pastime, bridge.
Daughter Kay Everly Braddy recalled, “For as long as I can remember, St. Patrick's Day and all of its festivities were a part of her life. She truly loved Dublin and wanted to give back to her community.”
Described as a determined woman, Kay stated that her mother, as one of the founding members of the St. Pat’s committee, was determined to do everything she could to make it the best it could be.
“The festival was her baby. We used to tease her about all of the St. Patrick’s stuff she kept under her bed. Every March, she would drag it out and start working on it,” Richy fondly recalled.
Everly asserted, “Based on what she did and what I witnessed, Mom dug into it and was all into what she did.”
In speaking of his mother, who served as a judge in many of the early parades and pageants,” Richly concluded by saying, “She loved all aspects of the festival and would be so proud to see how it has evolved over the last 50 years.”
Not one to claim the credit for herself, Anne wrote in her own history of the festival, “It would not be possible to mention all of the names of the many people who have contributed to the success of the Dublin/Laurens Saint Patrick’s Festival over the past 32 years. But there is one name we can’t leave out - Richard “Dick” Killebrew, Dick was WMLT’s news director and Morning Wake Up Man.”
“Because of Dick, and the many others who have worked to support the Festival, we are still merry making and wearing the green,” she proclaimed.
Anne once wrote, “There is no other event in Laurens County that is as large and as far reaching in community involvement nor is there any other event that has been promoted with such success in a spirit of unity.”
In recalling her service to the festival, Kay Braddy said of her mom, “Many long hours were spent for many, many years as a member of the Order of the Blarney Stone to being in charge of the professional parade floats to serving as the historian. She enjoyed every minute she devoted to the festival and was determined to help make it better and better year after year. I'm sure one of her proudest moments was when Richy was crowned Little Mr. Dublin.”
For four decades Anne Everly saved every scrap of paper related to the festival. She was the Historian of the St. Patrick’s Festival from the very first day. Those treasures were preserved by the Everly family, who donated them to the Laurens County Historical Society.
Everly’s collection contains several large boxes of clippings, programs, photos, tickets and all sorts of ephemera of all that is Irish about Dublin. The cataloging of the Anne M. Everly Saint Patrick’s Festival Collection has begun and any and all volunteers who wish to continue Ann’s project are asked to contact the Laurens County Historical Society at (478) 272-9242 or visit the museum at 702 Bellevue Avenue in Dublin.
In 1987, Anne Everly compiled a comprehensive history of the festival during its first thirty-two years. It is published in the second volume of the History of Laurens County, Georgia.
And on this Saint Patrick’s Day, daughter Kay can close her eyes and see her mom, who died in 2007, as “she proudly dons her green blazer as she walks the pearly streets of heaven and shares stories of her hometown, Dublin.”
So on this day when everyone is Irish, it is my turn to salute my fellow historian. Anne, along with Joann DiFazio, was one of the first of the women who took little or no credit for the enduring success of the festival. She was the first of the women who worked tirelessly behind the scenes while the founding fathers were lauded with plaques and awards. She was Anne M. Everly, “the First Lady of the Dublin Saint Patrick’s Festival.”