Guest of honor, the wonderful Martin O’Grady who founded the Woodlawn House of Music and Arts, was presented with his award. O’Grady noted that if he were to win the lottery, he would dedicate the earnings to opening more locations. He says he is still a “dreamer,” and he is certainly a huge inspiration to the entire Irish community in New York and will have a lasting influence for many generations to come.
It was finally time to announce winner of the title of the 2012 New York Rose. All the girls lined up on stage and, unprompted, held hands as we waited anxiously for the winner to be revealed. Sean Ruane teased it out for a few moments, but he finally revealed it was Anne- Marie Lynch, cueing hugs and congratulations from us girls.
Anne-Marie, born in New York, was raised in County Cavan in Ireland. She wowed the audience with her beautiful rendition of ‘Caledonia’ to which she sang and played the guitar.
While there could only be one winner for the New York Rose, the common motto goes that ‘Once a rose, always a rose.’ The fourteen other girls and I who competed undoubtedly formed a bond and were already chattering about when and where our next reunion will be.
Of course, there are many thank yous to be had for the whole experience. Michelle Carroll fearlessly stepped up and is now affectionately known as ‘Mama Rose’ for organizing several events in the months prior to selection day that not only raised publicity about the New York Rose competition, but helped foster new friendships. Unateresa Gormley organized the New York Rose center and its selection with help from Ursula McIntyre at Empire Casino in Yonkers. 2012 roses Erin Loughran (New York), Orlaith Carroll (Limerick) and Caitlin McNeill (Big Apple) all also dedicated their time and efforts to creating a great event and making us contestants feel welcome. Surely, countless others were a part of the big day, all of whom deserve many thanks as well.
Undoubtedly, some naysayers have said that the Rose of Tralee competition as a whole is outdated and even antiquated. While I’m personally not much of a fan of pageants myself, the Rose of Tralee competition is in a league of its own. As a competition, if you can even call it that, it looks for the brightest young women who are aiming to make an impact within their communities. With that and its ever welcome tourism boost in Ireland, I hope to see the Rose of Tralee contest around for many more years to come.