From August 20th to the 24th, 100,000 visitors gathered in Tralee, Co. Kerry to watch 32 Roses vie in friendly competition in the 2010 Rose of Tralee Festival. The Roses came from as close as Dublin and Cork and as far as New Zealand and Dubai to participate in all the festivities of the festival’s 52nd year. After a weeklong tour around Ireland, the accomplished young women arrived in Tralee for the Rose Ball, the parade, and the two nights of televised interviews and performances that make up the heart of the competition.
The Rose of Tralee festival originated in 1959. It was inspired by the traditional naming of a Carnival Queen during the summer fair, and appreciation for the famous local song, “The Rose of Tralee.” The song was written in the 19th century by William Mulchinock, a wealthy merchant whose love for a woman named Mary, a maid at his family’s house, was forbidden due to their class differences. He emigrated, spending a few years in India as a war correspondent. But, unable to forget Mary, he returned to Tralee a few years later, only to find that she had died from tuberculosis. The song commemorates his love for her, “Mary, the Rose of Tralee,” and has come to be the song of the town and its annual festival.
In the early years, Roses had to be natives of Tralee, but the rules were later amended so that any girl of Irish birth or ancestry could compete. This makes the festival a particularly emotional and enlightening experience for many of the Roses, some of whom are second- or third-generation Irish and have never before been to Ireland.
During the two nights of live TV footage, the young women, their escorts, their families and their fans gathered in the Rose Dome. The events were hosted by Irish TV presenter and personality Dáithi O’Sé. Each Rose was interviewed by O’Sé and then had the option of doing a performance to display a talent. Some opted to sing or play an instrument, while others did more unique performances, such as a German rendition of “The Wild Rover” and a reel danced to Men At Work’s “Down Under.”
At the end of the last night, the London Rose, Clare Kambamettu, was named the 2010 Rose of Tralee. Kambamettu, who lives in London and is an assistant psychologist at a substance misuse service, was born in Leeds but grew up in Athy, Co. Kildare. Her mother is Irish and her father is Indian, which makes her the first Rose of Tralee of Indian descent. During her year as The Rose of Tralee, Kambamettu will represent the festival at various venues and plans to work with charities in Ireland and India.
Footage from the festival can be viewed on roseoftralee.ie/tv