2019 South Carolina Rose of Tralee

So! Since it’s been two months since “blooming,” I figure its high time to write a good ol’ update post on life, love, and a little old thing we call “The Rose of Tralee.”

So any of you who follow me on the socials (which I assume you do if you ended up here) have seen posts of me frolicking around in a sash with South Carolina Rose plastered across it. It looks cool, I’m doing some fun things….but what’s actually happening?

The Rose of Tralee Festival is an annual festival held in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland. It features concerts, parades, street food, fair rides, various events, and the selection of the “Rose of Tralee.”

In over-simplified terms, the woman selected to be the "Rose of Tralee" becomes an ambassador that embodies the modern Irish woman and serves as a reflection of an ever-changing Ireland.

She is a woman of Irish descent selected to represent the Irish diaspora from whence she comes (South Carolina) and then is selected from among all the other Roses to be the Rose of Tralee.

Is it a pageant? No, not really. Though we do wear some awesome outfits and perform on a stage (on TV btw), most of what you see on screen is for entertainment and show. The search is for an ambassador of sorts; someone who can speak eloquently, represent their home Centre and Ireland well, and appear in public as needed. According to the information I received upon selection,

“Judging is on a continuous basis and will be carried out by means of individual and group interviews, and informally at social events. The basic judging criteria includes personality, demeanor, social skills, interaction and awareness of your own local culture.”

Speak well, be informed, be a good person… Over the years, the Roses have served as a beautiful representation of the evolution of Irish culture and of Irish women. As the world changes, so do the Roses; and the chance to be a part of something as significant as the Rose of Tralee festival... the chance to be the voice of the South Carolina Irish... to make our mark in this history book... it's an unmatched honor. I still have to pinch myself.

During our time at the festival we tour Ireland, meet loads of wonderful people (business owners, political leaders, families from all over the world), attend social events, perform/interview on television… we basically live as Irish princesses for 10 days.

At the end of the festival, live on television, one of the Roses is selected as the “Rose of Tralee.” She then becomes the face of the festival and acts as a representative of Ireland for her year as the Rose.

Before competing in Ireland however, women compete at the local level at their “Rose Centre” for the chance to be selected. These Centres are all over the world. This year, 32 Rose Centres are sending their selected Roses to Ireland at the end of August for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I am one of those Roses.

This year, there are eight American Roses:

  1. South Carolina

  2. Washington D.C.

  3. Ohio

  4. Boston/New England

  5. Chicago

  6. Arizona

  7. San Francisco.

  8. New York

There are also Roses from Australia, the UK, Ireland (of course), and more. A complete list of this years Roses and a growing list of their bios can be found here:


The Festival: A History

The Rose of Tralee was born out of the selection of a “Carnival Queen” for the Race Week Carnival in Tralee, Co. Kerry beginning in 1939. The duties of the “Carnival Queen” were to preside over the proceedings of the races and present awards to the winning jockeys and horses. This event died away during the years of WWII, but was revived again in 1957. The last two Carnival Queens were crowned in ’57 and ’58.

In 1959, four businessmen came together to brainstorm ways to increase tourism to Tralee during the races and encourage expats to return home. Inspired by the song, The Rose of Tralee, the festival was born, making this year its 60th anniversary.

The Song

As just indicated, The Rose of Tralee is actually a song. The story goes that William Pembroke Mulchinock, a wealthy Protestant merchant, fell in love with a poor Catholic maid—Mary O’Connor—in service to his parents. Their love was (of course) controversial. William went to war in India and when he returned, learned of Mary’s passing. In his mourning, he wrote the song The Rose of Tralee. He lived a rather tragic life thereafter, having never fully recovered from the loss of his love. The hauntingly beautiful lyrics are as follows:

The pale moon was rising above the green mountain,

The sun was declining beneath the blue sea;

When I strayed with my love to the pure crystal fountain,

That stands in the beautiful Vale of Tralee.

She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer,

Yet 'twas not her beauty alone that won me;

Oh no, 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning,

That made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee.

The cool shades of evening their mantle were spreading,

And Mary all smiling was listening to me;

The moon through the valley her pale rays was shedding,

When I won the heart of the Rose of Tralee.

Though lovely and fair as the Rose of the summer,

Yet 'twas not her beauty alone that won me;

Oh no, 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning,

That made me love Mary the Rose of Tralee.

In the far fields of India, 'mid war's dreadful thunders,

Her voice was a solace and comfort to me,

But the chill hand of death has now rent us asunder,

I'm lonely tonight for the Rose of Tralee.

She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer,

Yet 'twas not her beauty alone that won me;

Oh no, 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning,

That made me love Mary, The Rose of Tralee

The lyrics… and I’m a sucker for language. I’m not crying in a coffee shop... you are… Anyway…

Rose Escorts

In addition to the Roses, there are the escorts. The Rose escorts are Irish men or men of Irish descent whose sole job during the festival is to escort the Roses. They walk with us from event to event, carry purses, offer encouragement when the extremely demanding schedule gets overwhelming...

In order to be an escort, they apply, go through a series of interviews, attend a bootcamp of sorts, and then MAYBE are selected as an escort for the festival. Each escort is assigned one Rose for the duration of our time there. I don’t know my escort yet, but will meet him in August.

Tipperary Crystal

Tipperary Crystal is the Festival sponsor and provides all of the jewelry worn by the Roses. Their pieces are beautiful—I feel like a princess.

Livestream the televised event

Aside from the parades and events throughout Ireland, there are two televised nights.

For those of you who will not be in attendance at the festival, you can actually watch these nights live via the RTE and Rose of Tralee app.

As we get closer to the festival itself, I will provide more insight as to how to go about doing that.

So now what?

I will be spending my summer in South Carolina being the Rose! This means some volunteering, charity races, performance gigs here and there… I’ll be studying, preparing all the dresses for the 10 days… It’s going to be a whirlwind, and I’m beyond honored (and still often in shock) that this is my reality for the next few months.

So there it is: this wonderful whirlwind I’ve found myself in, The Rose of Tralee Festival.

And I get the great honor of taking part in it as the 2019 South Carolina Rose.


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