DIXON – Dixon High School teacher Andrew McKay might have hard time picking a favorite color. He’s full of purple pride. And then there’s that red beard that reveals more than just a wee bit o’ the Irish in his blood.
But for now, green might just take the top spot in the Dixon High School gym teacher’s heart.
On Thursday, the wearin’ o’ the green was officially bestowed upon coach McKay when Rock River Valley Shamrock Club President Tricia Phelan and Vice President Josh Keohler officially named him the grand marshal for this year’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade and party, lifting the ceremonial sash over his head and onto his sturdy frame.
Twas a fitting honor for the man whose name will forever be entwined with a nearly tragic day in Dixon High School’s history.
McKay was targeted by Matthew A. Milby Jr. when the Dixon senior took a rifle to graduation practice in Lancaster Gym on May 16 and shot at McKay, whom he encountered in a hallway before fleeing seconds later when confronted and pursued by Dixon PD school resource officer Mark Dallas, who fired at Milby and stopped him in his tracks before he could injure anyone.
It’s the latest accolade for McKay, who was honored by the city, along with six others, in October when they were given citizens’ awards for outstanding bravery and leadership for their roles in helping during and after the shooting, despite the danger to themselves.
McKay went to warn others while being shot at, and helped move students to safety after gunfire erupted in the school, actions that hardly seem surprising considering one of the main reasons he said he chose a career in education was to have a positive impact on students – and demonstrating courage under fire while helping usher students to safety is having pretty positive impact.
He was raised in Michigan and has been teaching for 4 1/2 years, the last two in Dixon, where he’s helped instill a love of weightlifting and sense of hard work into his students.
McKay was raised on a dairy farm and was the first generation of his family to leave for college and graduate. He said he enjoys being a father to his daughter, Randall, and his step-children William, Mark, and Dasha. He also belongs to the National High School Strength Coaches Association, as well as the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
The parade’s latest grand marshal also has some Irish background; his ancestors emigrated from Scotland to Ireland and married Irish women. He said he’s happy living in Dixon, a midway point between where he grew up and where his parents live – and judging by the smile on his face at Thursday night’s ceremony, now he’s got another reason to be happy.
St. Paddy’s celebration
The sash ceremony was just a St. Paddy’s preamble to the citywide celebration of all things Irish next week.
The land o’Dixon is pulling out all the stops for next weekend’s St. Paddy’s celebration, with a new festival, a costumed race, a Celtic rock band and more.
The Dixon Family YMCA invites runners to don a St. Patrick’s Day-themed costume for its Sham-Rock 5K and Kids Run, 3.1-mile timed race that begins with registration from 7 to 8:30 followed by the race at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The cost is $25 per person until noon Thursday; $30 thereafter until race day. Strollers are welcome, pets are not.
The free kids fun run, one lap around the bridges and Heritage Crossing, takes off at 8:30 a.m. at the Lincoln Log Home, and ends on River Road.
St. Patrick’s Day costumes are encouraged. A prize will be awarded to the most festively attired.
The race will kick off of the Y’s annual Strong Kids capital campaign, proceeds from which benefit Y youth programs.
Go to dixonymca.org or raceentry.com/shamrock-5k-and-shindig/race-information for all, the details.
New this year is the Shindig Party, which follows from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Bean Blossom parking lot.
There will be family-friendly activities, food, vendors, and games, ahead of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Speaking of the parade, it begins at 3 p.m. at Dixon High School and ends at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 506 W. Third St., where the Rock River Valley Shamrock Club's annual after-parade blast will feature live music by the Celtic rock band Reilly, a silent auction and a 50-50 raffle.
Admission to the party is, as always, free; canned food donations will be accepted for the Dixon Food Bank.
Find the club on Facebook for more information.