For most Irish people it is the climax of the summer holiday festivals. The Rose of Tralee annual event attracts record TV viewing figures and packs the town of Tralee in County Kerry with revelers from morning until night.
The contest itself is demure and almost virginal in its intent to showcase young women from all over the world and pick the best of them, not based on looks but on niceness, personality and talent.
And so they come from the four corners of earth, Roses from Australia and Dubai, Denmark and Dublin and all points where the Irish flag is flown, for good clean fun.
Until this year.
The modern world came crashing in on the participants in Ireland’s international “lovely girl” event, as Father Ted would surely call it.
First came the Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins, who had the temerity to call for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution which states the life of the fetus is paramount and abortion can never occur.
The debate was sparked by the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian native who died from blood poisoning when she was suffering a miscarriage in Galway University Hospital in 2012. Doctors refused to abort the fetus which was non-viable and that contributed to her death.
Parkins went on stage and told the startled audience during her interview with host Dáithí Ó Sé that she wished Ireland would have a vote allowing abortion in such circumstances.
All hell broke loose on Twitter and in the media. The media manager for the Rose of Tralee festival led Parkins into a side room and told her she had let the entire festival down.
Earlier, the Roses had been told to ignore politics such as the American election and all that unladylike stuff.
Some chance. The Sydney Rose, a TV executive in Australia, was having none of that.
Read more: Thorny times for the lovely Rose of Tralee
The second crumble in the mom and apple pie dishing was the decision by the Rose of Tralee folks to air the culling contest during which the 65 Roses were reduced to the 32 who would take part in the TV final. The anguished girls, a la "The Bachelor" who were given a particular color rose, were cordoned off in a side room and told they had not qualified while the cameras rolled.
Again, many of the Roses were furious. The Down Rose Fainche McCormack likened it to animals on display in the circus and stated she was disgusted with the treatment.
“We did not sign up to be treated like animals in the circus and held in a room against our will,” she said.
“I could go on for days about the many ways we were manipulated, bullied and mistreated.
“None of us signed up for a cheap reality television show and now unfortunately the Rose of Tralee is an experience I will never forget, for all the wrong reasons.”
This is very far from the usual Rose of Tralee palaver which consists of wholesome Irish observations about how wonderful everything is.
But it just shows that even the Rose of Tralee is not immune to outside forces. In 2014, a lesbian Rose, Maria Walsh, proved very popular and actually won the contest. Nothing stays the same in this world, even the timeworn tradition of the Rose of Tralee.
Festival organizers would be well advised to let a breath of fresh air and reality in. In 2017 let’s have some reality TV in the best sense.