Friends and colleagues gathered at the Boston Police Emerald Society headquarters in Roslindale recently to wish the 2014 Boston Rose Michelle Prior good luck as she takes part in the final of the International Rose of Tralee Festival.
Now in its 55th year, The Rose of Tralee International Festival is one of Ireland's largest and longest running festivals and this celebration of Irish heritage is held each year in the town of Tralee in County Kerry. As part of the festivities, an ambassador or ‘Rose’ is selected to represent Ireland and the country in which they live at a series of international events for the following 12-months.
A native of Georgetown, Ma, Prior, says she is “very excited" to represent Boston.
Prior was first made aware of the long-standing competition in 2012 when she was on a study abroad semester at Dublin City University and her Irish roommates told her about the festival.
The 23-year-old recalls "They asked if I had ever watched it in America, which I hadn't, and then they insisted that I should apply."
“I didn’t think much else on it until I got home for the summer and was desperately missing Ireland” she admits.
However, with a hectic student schedule it took Michelle another two years before she was able to apply take part in the competition.
For the selection process, she traveled earlier this year to the Rose of Tralee Boston-New England Center. There along with other Rose applicants, she went through a series of interviews before having to perform a stage-piece for the judging panel. Much to her surprise, Michelle was soon crowned the 2014 Boston Rose.
Now a research associate for Nuka Research, Prior describes hearing the news as “a dream come true.” And as part of proud Irish American family with ancestry in Counties Mayo, Cork, and Kilkenny, representing Boston, she says her family is “beyond thrilled.”
In June, she traveled to Ireland to take part in the regional finals which were held in County Laois where she was joined by 59 Roses from across the globe including Roses from 13 regions in the United States.
“I had no idea what to expect and was excited to be coming over to participate in an Irish organized event with a young event with young women from all around the world. We had an amazing whirlwind time there” Michelle declared about her three-day visit.
Over the course of three nights, Rose of Tralee host Dáithí Ó Sé interviewed a total of 60 Roses. Then the judging panel had to make the tough decision of sending just 32 through to the final stages of the Rose of Tralee festival in August.
Representing America, Michelle, along with Roses from Texas, Washington, Carolina, Kentucky, Southern California, Arizona and Philadelphia were chosen to take part in the final stages of the festival which starts in County Kerry on August 15.
Since being crowned as this year’s Boston Rose, Michelle, the daughter of Richard and Patricia Prior, has engaged with local Irish American organizations in Massachusetts including the Irish Network Boston and Boston Irish Business Association. She also has enjoyed attending numerous Irish-American community events around the state. Speaking about the reaction she has received, Michelle says “All around Boston and New England, people have been thrilled to learn about the Rose program and what it represents in Ireland.”
During the five-day festival program, the 32 Rose hopefuls will take part in numerous events before a two night selection process commences which is televised live on Irish television. The successor to current Rose of Tralee Haley O’Sullivan who is from Texas will be crowned on August 19.
Speaking about taking part in the final selection as well as being on live television, Michelle admits “I am a bit nervous of course, but how could you not be?! …however, I know a bit more about what to expect. I’ve met Dáithí Ó Sé and he’s wonderful, I know he’ll make me feel comfortable on stage once again.”
This year's Boston Rose will be joined by her parents throughout the festival however the rest of her family including her maternal grandparents will be eagerly awaiting news back in her hometown of Georgetown.
With so much excitement, Michelle admits that during this very unique Irish experience thoughts of family members who are no longer with her have been on her mind. Speaking of her paternal grand-parents, she says “Although they never lived to see me take my first trip over the pond , my love for Ireland is a lifelong gift they’ve given me. I know they’ll be with me in spirit when I take the stage at the Dome and they would be absolutely ecstatic that their grand-daughter was representing the Irish Diaspora in Boston and New England.”
Best wishes to Michelle Prior from all the staff at The Irish Emigrant.