Hey ladies, reckon your gaze holds a particular, indefinable “truth in your eyes”?
If so, you may just be the next Rose of Tralee and winner of a five-day festival seeking the sweetest ‘Rose’ based on her intellect, ambitions and aspirations. And those truthful eyes? Well, they’re taken from the 19th century song The Rose of Tralee.
County Kerry’s buzzing town is gearing up for its most renowned festival of the year. And what draws the crowds in their droves to one of the most picturesque places in Ireland is something rather special: an international set of 32 glowing, excited young women, eager to display their unique talents and personalities in the hope of being crowned with the sparkling tiara and title of Rose of Tralee.
Having just celebrated 50 years of the competition in 2009, you can’t help but fancy the festival’s endearing and enduring mix of the modern and old-fashioned. One of the more conventional touches is the assignment of an Escort to each Rose – a young man to bring the Rose to dinner, accompany them throughout festival events and ensure they have a bit of craic along the way. Sweet – but how do the chosen men rise to the challenge?
Before becoming an Escort, everyone must attend a gruelling two-day boot camp to be trained in chivalry, cocktail making and, ahem, powering a speed boat! The James Bond preparation certainly paid off for some of the Escorts. Mel Nally, a Rose Escort many times, admits that although he didn’t escort her in Tralee, he eventually married the Leeds Rose! Ben Tighe, the reigning Escort of the Year, reckons living with seven sisters prepared him well for the role!
The more modern aspect of the festival is seen in the Roses themselves; with solicitors, radiographers, pharmacists, teachers and students taking part! While many of the Roses are from Ireland, a lot are of Irish descent, so Roses also hail from Australia, Dubai, the USA, and the UK.
For the lady who wins that tiara on the final night, a new life awaits, but for everyone else, the atmosphere in the town is electric – literally. Tralee lights up for the Roses, with brilliant street lighting borrowed from the neon-capital Blackpool. And considering the streets are filled with parades, music, circus, funfair, markets and live performance, it’s only right Tralee gets as dressed up as its Roses!
The International Rose of Tralee Festival takes place on 19 – 21 August 2011