The small town of Tralee has been inundated with 100,000 people since the festivities began last Saturday with the annual Rose of Tralee festival Tonight will see the final night, of the live television show, and the crowning of 2010's Rose of Tralee.
This year 32 Roses, from all over the globe, including the New York / New Jersey representative Katie Dunleavy, are battling out for the title of Rose of Tralee. The contest is expected to have an audience of 900,000 on Ireland's national broadcaster, RTE. The favorite say bookies is the London rose with Dubai’s entry not far behind.
The Rose of Tralee Festival has been held in Tralee since 1959. Its origins lie in the romantic tale of William Mulchinock and his true love Mary O'Connor. William was a merchant in the town in the 19th century and Mary was his maid. They fell in love but, because of the class difference between the two families, their love affair was discouraged. William emigrated.
Years later, unable to forget Mary, he returned to Tralee, only to discover she had died of tuberculosis while he was away. Grief-stricken, he expressed his love for her in the words of a song - "The Rose of Tralee."
In this song, William describes his Rose of Tralee being “lovely and fair.” However, William was not the superficial type as he would explain in the following lines:
“But it was 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.”
This song caught the imaginations of a group of budding entrepreneurs in 1950s Tralee. The town had suffered from mass emigration in the post-war years and they were eager to start an event that would bring life and enthusiasm back to the town. They decided to start a carnival and they chose the "Rose of Tralee" song as its theme.
Though much may have changed in the post-Celtic Tiger Tralee, the fact that Irish Diaspora from around the globe return to compete remains the same. Katie Dunleavy, the New York / New Jersey Rose, spoke to IrishCentral.com before travelling to Ireland.
Katie said she was thrilled to be chosen for the competition. Her father and grandmother have recently died so she sees this as an excellent way to end a very hard year. Both of Katie's parents are from Dublin. Her sister and brother will travel with her to the event in Tralee where they will be met by the rest of her extended family. She says that whatever happens this is the "experience of a lifetime".