Irish-American culture and special events come together in the perfect internship for Lexington student Becky Tatz
With America’s Irish-American population nearing 4 million, it’s no surprise that Lexington student Becky Tatz (Class of 2016, from Columbus, Ohio) found herself quite busy in her internship at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago. As the Events Sales and Marketing Intern at the large Heritage Center on the northwest side of the city, Becky was a key player on-site at big events such as the weekend-long St. Patrick’s day celebration, the Irish Summer Festival, the Rose of Tralee banquet, the annual Open house, and the Hall of Fame gala—not to mention numerous weddings and family celebrations.
With a theatre, library, museum, art gallery, authentic Irish pub, dance studios, and numerous function rooms, the Irish American Heritage Center has a lot going on. It is a popular venue for weddings and special events. Although the historic building has been renovated, from an event planner’s perspective, “it’s still an old building,” Becky says, remembering challenging moments with big rings of keys, out of the way fuse boxes and hidden storage closets. “The volunteers were my best resource,” Becky says, “many of them are immigrants from Ireland. They are deeply committed and know the building like the back of their hand.” Becky enjoyed the busy days with many events happening at the same time. She laughs as she remembers the time a table leg under the coffee station collapsed. Luckily, she caught the coffee urn just in time to prevent her guests being drenched in hot coffee.
One of Becky’s favorite spots is the Center’s Irish pub, which is open on Fridays and Saturdays. “It’s a great place to socialize and hear the older generation talk about their lives in Ireland. Maureen O’Looney, for example, is like the queen of the Center. She’s 92 and full of stories. I could listen to her all day,” Becky reports. Becky has been known to drag her fellow Lexington students away from their computers to join her after work at the Heritage Center where they enjoy Irish music, stand-up comedians or visits from famous Irishmen such as Conan O’Brian, Brendan Gleason and Damian McGinty. Even Bob Tatz, Becky’s father, enjoys visiting the Center when he is in town from Ohio.
Bob likes taking a comfortable seat in one of the leather chairs in the Heritage Center’s library to read from their copious collection of books on Irish culture as much as he likes joining an open music session with his bodhrán—the famous Irish drum. A high point for Bob was attending the Irish Summer Festival in July. “At the Mass for the volunteers, held in the Center’s auditorium, the priest spoke about faith and family—that is really what Irish culture is all about.” From a father’s point of view, Bob says “it is really touching to meet so many people speaking so highly of my daughter. ‘What a delight Becky is,’ they say. That means a lot to me.”
Becky’s love for her Irish-American heritage began in grade school when she learned Irish step dancing and participated in Irish living history events with her parents. At the Dublin Irish Festival, the Tatz family dressed in 11th century garb and manned the 11th century Irish kitchen. “There were no potatoes,” Becky points out, “the Irish didn’t get those until Columbus brought them back from America.” During high school, Becky went twice to Ireland, where she participated in camps and tours organized by Ros Gael Student Residence.
About her first internship, Becky concludes, “combining my passion for Irish Culture and my professional goal to become an Event Planner was a dream for me. Now in my second year at Lexington as I begin to take Event Planning classes, I have experience that puts it all into perspective.”