Oscar Wilde once said that “memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” How true! In the past week, long-time Irish Fest supporter and creator of the smiling leprechaun image that came to be known as Paddy McFest, Jim Finnerty, passed away from cancer at the age of 68. That diary in my memory, somehow holding yesterday and today together, was reopened as I met a number of old Irish Fest acquaintances at Jim’s funeral. Rekindled were fond memories going back even a few years before Jim called to offer his design help on a new logo for our fledgling organization.
Law school classmate Bernie McCartan and I joined the Shamrock Club of Wisconsin in 1975. The Club membership met once a month on Thursday at St. Rose of Lima School on 30th and Michigan. In late Spring of 1977 I was walking into the meeting hall for the monthly meeting, and I was pulled aside by Dr. John Walton. Doc Walton told me it was election night to select the officers for the 1977/1978 period but they had no candidate for President and asked if I would run. I agreed and since I was unopposed I won the position. Bernie became the Parliamentarian. One can now realize how important that election was as over the next few years, we met so many of the key volunteers who were vital to the Irish Fest start up.
As it happens, Jim Finnerty, who ran a graphic design business Designcor, married Mary Walton, daughter of Doc and Kathleen Walton, thus setting the stage for Jim’s call in November 1980 to discuss a design mark for Milwaukee Irish Fest. Beside the leprechaun image, later to be named Paddy McFest by a ”name the leprechaun contest” that Irish Fest sponsored, another more stylish image of a green and blue wave was submitted. Before we saw the Paddy image, Jim had reviewed it with Summerfest Director Rod Lanser pointing out that the Paddy smile was an effort to include the Summerfest logo in the new Irish Fest design. Rod approved. After some discussion exploring issues of visual identity, color and an aspect of “fun” the Irish Fest Board selected the orange, white and green leprechaun image as the new logo.
The Paddy McFest logo has stood the test of time with little iteration, one of which was to remove Paddy’s pipe over a decade ago. In 1981 puppeteer Robin Reed was commissioned to create a Paddy McFest mascot who became an instant, but very rotund, hit. By 1985 Paddy was slimmed down and on May 11 of that year, in a fairy tale setting in the Pius gym, Paddy and Molly McFest were linked together for life in a Druidic ceremony. They celebrated thirty years together in 2015. Thank you, Jim Finnerty – Paddy’s Daddy.