ROSE GIFT AND PRIZE SPONSORS
Newfoundland & Labrador Centre
Newfoundland & Labrador’s history is rich in Irish heritage, traditions and culture spanning many generations, and participation in the International Rose of Tralee Festival is a natural reflection of those characteristics. Held annually, the Newfoundland & Labrador Rose of Tralee selection comprises many events during the St. Patrick’s week celebrations, with the final event being the black tie Gala.
The Rose of Tralee International Festival celebrated 50 years in
2009, and is one of Ireland's longest running festivals. It is based around the selection of the Rose of Tralee, an international event that encompasses young women of Irish descent from Ireland and around the world.
Every year more than 30 International Roses come to Tralee, supported by friends and family. The Festival comprises Rose Selection, family carnival, fashion show and live concerts, in addition to welcoming visitors and delegates from regions worldwide represented by each Rose. During this time the town's streets are transformed into a feast of parades, music, circus, funfair, markets and live performance.
All eyes are on the Roses, who travel from the UK, America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Europe, the Middle East and of course Ireland, to compete for the coveted title of Rose of Tralee (the essence of which is based on the popular song of the same name). The Roses take time to visit various attractions in Tralee and meet Festival goers in the town centre, and can also be seen at any of the three parades that take place during the Festival. The Midnight Madness parade on the final night is led by the newly crowned Rose of Tralee, and followed by a fireworks extravaganza.
The Festival opens with the much anticipated International Gala Rose Ball, accommodating over 900 guests who enjoy a five-course meal, entertainment, and dance the night away with the International Roses and other distinguished guests. The ever-popular Fashion Show is also a Festival highlight, with top name designers and stores showing their new season collections, stunningly presented by models from the Celia Holman Lee Agency.
Anticipation reaches its highest point at the Rose of Tralee Selection on the last two days of Festival. Broadcast live by RTÉ from the Festival Dome, this is the moment when television viewers in Ireland and those around the world watching via the internet get to see the Roses for themselves, as they try to predict the judges' favourite choice to be this year's Rose of Tralee. Supporters fill the 2,000-seater Dome to capacity, and maintain the electric atmosphere with their specially made banners and shouts of encouragement.
In addition, family entertainment is also provided by Fossetts circus, Birds Fun Fair and by day and night on the streets of Tralee throughout Festival week day, plus live music and the Party With the Roses in the Festival Dome.
The Rose of Tralee International Festival is based on the love song The Rose of Tralee, by William Mulchinock a 19th century wealthy merchant who was in love with Mar
y O'Connor, his maid. Mary was born in Broguemaker's Lane in Tralee and worked as a nanny. When William first saw Mary he fell in love with her, but because of the difference in social class between the two families their love affair was discouraged. William emigrated, and some years later returned to Tralee only to find Mary had died of tuberculosis. He was broken hearted and expressed his love for her in the words of the song.
The Festival as it is today stems from Tralee's Carnival Queen, once a thriving annual town event, fallen by the wayside due to post-war emigration. In 1957 Race Week Carnival was resurrected in Tralee that featured a Carnival Queen. A year later a group of local business people met in Harty's Bar in Tralee and decided to revamp the Carnival in a way that would regenerate the town, encourage tourism and keep the race crowd in town overnight.
The new event would be called a festival and the carnival queen contest turned into a celebration of the Rose of Tralee song. Young women would also be sought from outside Tralee, and heats were held as far away as London, Birmingham, New York and Dublin with the help of local Kerry people living abroad.
The first Festival in 1959 had Roses representing Tralee, London,Dublin, Birmingham and New York, and cost just IR£750. It is indicative of the growth of the event that by 1965 the budget had grown to IR£10,000. Each Rose had to be a native of Tralee, but this condition was relaxed in the early sixties to be a native of Kerry, and in 1967 "Irish birth or ancestry" became the criterion.
The 1959 Festival was a resounding success with Alice O'Sullivan from Dublin becoming its first Rose. The organising committee extended their sights to include setting up centres in other areas, beginning with the United States. As well as Ireland, the UK and the US, the Festival now has centres in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai and Luxembourg.
The original proposed title of the event was the Festival of Tralee. However a member of the New York Kerrymen's Association recommended Festival of Kerry as a title that would facilitate support by Kerry emigres from other parts of the county. It was in the 1970s that editor of The Kerryman newspaper, Seamus McConville, suggested that the title Rose of Tralee International Festival be used to strengthen the link to the song and to reflect the growth of the event worldwide.
The first Rose Selection took place at a dance. After a few years it moved to the Ashe Memorial Hall in Tralee town centre (then used as a cinema) with seating for 680 people. By 1972 it was obvious that the demand for tickets far outstripped capacity. The International Eisteddfod in Wales used a large marquee-like structure and this became the model for the Rose of Tralee Festival Dome which first appeared in 1973 at a cost exceeding IR£17,500 (the total Festival budget for 1972). Irish folk singer Johnny McEvoy topped the bill on the Dome's opening night. The original Dome was destroyed in a storm on the last day of the 1983 festival.
The Gala International Rose Ball was introduced in the seventies. Telefís Éireann first broadcast Rose Selection live in 1967 from a stage outside the Ashe Memorial Hall. Compere for TV was the late Joe Lynch (Dinny from RTE TV soap Glenroe). The show also featured a major parade of entertainers in front of the stage. Rose Selection has been compered by Kevin Hilton, Joe Lynch, Terry Wogan, Brendan O'Reilly (RTÉ sports), Michael Twomey ('Cha & Miah'), Gay Byrne, Kathleen Watkins, Derek Davis, Marty Whelan, Ryan Tubridy and Ray D'Arcy.
The only Centre to have won the title in successive years is London, in 2010 (Clare Kambamettu) and 2009 (Charmaine Kenny). The closest runner up is New York which won in 1974 (Maggie Flaherty) and 1976 (Marie Soden). Dublin has won the contest more often than any other Centre - 5 times - beginning with Alice O'Sullivan in 1959, Ciara O'Sullivan (1962), Cathy Quinn (1969), Sinead Boyle (1989) and Orla Tobin (2003).
Two gentlemen who were Escorts have attained a measure of fame outside their Festival roles. Former Dublin Lord Mayor Royston Brady and Bull Island's Alan Shortt were both Escorts. Alan Shortt got his first break as a comedian when Gay Byrne brought him on stage during Rose Selection to tell a few jokes.
There is an actual rose named The Rose of Tralee. Sam McGredy was an internationally renowned Portadown rose grower who became involved with the Festival in the 1960s. He bred and registered the Rose of Tralee rose and presented rose bushes to Tralee, which still grow in the Town Park.
Since 1959 the Festival has grown, incorporating centres 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.