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Rose of Tralee Beauty Contest

Elysha Brennan, winner of 2015 Rose of Tralee Beauty Contest

Elysha Brennan, winner of 2015 Rose of Tralee Beauty Contest

Rose of Tralee Beauty Contest takes place last full weekend in August and is one of Ireland’s largest and longest running festivals, celebrating 57 years in 2016. The competition started in 1959 on a budget of just £750. The village of Tralee in County Kerry is famous for a festival that is unique in Ireland: the annual beauty contest for the “Rose of Tralee.” Held during a long weekend in late August, the festivities begin with the playing of a harp by a woman belonging to a Kerry family in which harp-playing has been a traditional occupation for generations.
In addition, there are also horse races and competitions in singing, dancing, and storytelling, live concerts, theater, circus, markets, funfair, fireworks and Rose Parades. Anyway, it is the beauty contest that draws the most attention. Contestants – young women of Irish descent from around the world, come for a global celebration of Irish culture from Ireland, Britain, the United States, and even Australia, although the winner must be of Kerry descent.

The escorts at the Rose Tralee International selection

The escorts at the Rose Tralee International selection

“The Rose of Tralee,” a popular Irish ballad, was written by William Pembroke Mulchinock, who lived just outside the village of Tralee and fell in love with a girl who was a servant in one of the nearby houses. To put a stop to the relationship, his family sent him to India, where he served as a soldier for three years. He returned to Tralee just in time to see the funeral procession of the girl he loved, who had died of a broken heart. In the public park just outside of Tralee there is a memorial to the ill-fated lovers.

Sam McGredy's rose

Sam McGredy’s rose

There is an actual rose named The Rose of Tralee. Sam McGredy, representing the 4th generation of Northern Irish rose hybridizers, an internationally renowned Portadown rose grower who became involved with the Festival in the 1960s. He bred and registered the Rose of Tralee and presented rose bushes to Tralee, which still grow in the Town Park.

Since 1959 the Festival has grown, incorporating centers from all over the world and is firmly established on everyone’s events calendar. RTÉ’s live coverage of the Rose selection has helped install the Festival in the national psyche, and it has remained their top rating show for many years, with up to a million people tuning in every year for the result.

In contrast to beauty pageants, there is no swimwear section in the contest and the contestants are not judged on their appearances but on their personality and suitability to serve as ambassadors for the festival. Besides, the festival bills itself as a celebration of the “aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage” of modern young women.

Rose of Tralee Beauty Contest

Sources:
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World- Dictionary 2005
facebook.com/roseoftraleefestival
website