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CelticMKE, the Organizers Behind Milwaukee Irish Fest, Announce Succession Plan

The board of directors for CelticMKE, the nonprofit organization that produces the annual Milwaukee Irish Fest, have announced a succession plan for two key leadership positions, which will go into effect in 2024 and 2025.

Caitlin Ward-Hegedus, a Brookfield, Wisconsin native, will take the helm as the executive director of CelticMKE in three years. Ward-Hegedus will succeed Mike Mitchell, the organization’s current executive director, who has been in the position since 2018. After serving more than 28 years as a volunteer and seven years as the director, Mitchell announced his plan to retire at the end of 2025.

“Throughout the past year, the board prepared and adopted a strategic succession plan to ensure the long-term success of the organization,” explained Matt Jendrzejczyk, CelticMKE’s board president. “By planning ahead now, we will be able to execute a smooth transition, whilst continuing to build upon the talent and experience of our existing leaders. Assuming the role of executive director will be a natural progression for Caitlin, who has proven to have the expertise and vision necessary to strategically position CelticMKE for future growth.”

Ward-Hegedus has over ten years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. She received her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the University of Central Florida, worked in guest relations at Walt Disney World, and returned to Milwaukee for a few years to work with the Wisconsin Center District. There she accumulated further experience in small to large scale event management, convention and public show sales, contract negotiation and entertainment booking.

Her current role is the Marketing and Operations Manager of Visit Muskegon, the official marketing organization for Muskegon County, Michigan. She is responsible for departmental budgets, marketing and special projects and is also the acting parks and recreation grant writer, successfully writing over $10 million in acquisition grants in the last two years.

A long time CelticMKE volunteer, Ward-Hegedus currently serves as a board member and coordinator for festival guest receptions. Ward-Hegedus attributes the basis for her leadership and work ethic to Milwaukee Irish Fest and the community that taught her so much and looks forward to working with the board, staff and volunteers in her new role.

In two years, Franklin, Wisconsin native Molly Modlinski will fill the role of Director of Festival Operations, as Catherine Ward plans to step down and retire at the end of 2024, after spending six years in the position and over 40 years in various leadership roles.

Modlinski is no stranger to the organization, as she has been involved with CelticMKE for over 25 years. She started at a young age volunteering at the festival in the children’s area and naturally worked her way up into coordinator roles in the artist merchandise, special services, and marketplace vendor areas.

Prior to joining the staff at CelticMKE as the Director of Administration, Modlinski mentored and evaluated new hires while managing and facilitating for a major insurance company for six years. Modlinski has been an integral part of the organization, and her proven leadership and demonstrated passion makes her the perfect candidate for the Director of Festival Operations role.

With this succession plan in place, CelticMKE is equipped to expand upon the foundation previous leaders laid over the last 40 years, advance the organization’s mission of promoting and preserving all aspects of Celtic culture, and pave the way for the next 40 years. The board thanks Mike Mitchell and Catherine Ward for their decades of service and commitment to ensuring future success of the organization. They congratulate Caitlin Ward-Hegedus and Molly Modlinski and look forward to welcoming them to their new leadership positions in the near future.

About CelticMKE
CelticMKE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Celtic music and culture. Through original programming and events, CelticMKE aims to celebrate all aspects of Irish, Irish American and Celtic cultures and to also instill an appreciation of these cultures in current and future generations. CelticMKE produces the renowned Milwaukee Irish Fest, along with a variety of Celtic themed concerts, lectures, music workshops, classes and cultural heritage projects. For more information about CelticMKE, please visit celticmke.com.