Willie McBride Jr Recharging the Barnum Festival Wing Ding
Willie McBride Jr, owner of WC McBride Electric in Bridgeport, plans to add a jolt to the Barnum Festival Wing Ding as it returns for the first time since 2019.
The 2023 Wing Ding Chairman, McBride is a perfect fit to recharge the children and family parade in the Festival’s 75th year. He sees the Wing Ding as a key Festival event because it includes kids and families, who dress in costumes and build their own miniature floats that parade through Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo. Prizes are awarded in many categories. The event will take place in June at a date to be determined. As a leadup to the Wing Ding, he also plans a coloring competition for kids, who can create drawings of their costumes and floats.
“I love this event,” McBride said. “It includes so many diverse kids and parents throughout the area. They are the future of the Festival. We’re so excited that the Wing Ding is back.”
A Bridgeport native, McBride has supported kid’s and community programs throughout his career. It’s his vision to help build community through kid power.
“l have helped kids for years,” McBride said. “I want them to know that no matter where they come from, they can be successful. I see myself as one of them who worked his way up to be a success. I’m all in for the kids.”
McBride is the poster child for the self-made man who grew up in both Father Panik projects and the East Side when drugs and crime ruled. After graduating from Bullard-Haven Technical High School, he worked as electrician for the IBEW Local Union 488 and later for the City of Bridgeport Department of Education. Eight years ago, he launched his own commercial electrical business on Fairfield Avenue.
In that span, his business has grown to 40 employees in a union shop with a pension and complete medical benefits. He’s now investing more in the City, building a new headquarters on Central Avenue.
“I’m trying to create opportunities for men and women,” McBride said. “I’m born and raised in Bridgeport and I’m trying to help the city.”
The 2023 Festival Ringmaster George Estrada sees McBride as a perfect fit to resurrect the Wing Ding, which was postponed because of the Covid pandemic. In 2023, the Festival will celebrate its75th year.
“I know Willie will put his all into developing the Wing Ding, said Estrada. “When I asked him to become the chairman, he was instantly receptive. Willie is the epitome of a self-made success story and he’ll bring that energy to the Festival.”
McBride, 56, has added his energy to the Festival since 1999, volunteering for many roles. He’s served on committees for Barnum Sails the Sound and as a Royal Family judge.
In addition, he along with his three brothers (Dwayne, Jermaine, and Sean) founded the Willie and Sandra McBride Foundation in their parents’ name to serve Bridgeport youth. In partnership with the Cardinal Sheehan Center and the Caribe Youth Program, the McBride Foundation supports a fencing program that exposes kids to the sport and encourages them to pursue college. The fencing program includes 30 kids in 6-8th grade, and one of the students competed in London with the Jamaican fencing team.
“The state awarded us money to start the program and Sacred Heart provides volunteer student fencers. It’s a great partnership,” said McBride. “We’re trying to make a difference for kids who would never be exposed to fencing and the eventual possibility of college scholarships.”
Throughout his career, McBride, a Trumbull resident, has committed himself to community. He speaks to many school and youth programs about how to start and grow a business. He’s also served on several organizations and boards for the Housatonic Community College Foundation, Workplace, former chairman of the Juneteenth Board, and the Barnum Festival Board of Directors. In 2019, the Bridgeport Business Council also honored McBride with a business leader award.
Because of McBride’s energy and commitment, there’s no doubt the Wing Ding is in good hands as it returns in 2023.
“The Wing Ding is going to be great,” McBride said. “We need the kids involved again and having fun They’re the future of the Festival.”