There was great excitement at Newbridge Silverware on Monday evening of last week as the 32 Rose of Tralee finalists paid a visit ahead of this year’s festival.
Arriving at about 6.15pm, they posed for photos outside the visitor centre before heading inside. Family members and friends of the Roses were in attendance, along with several people who came to see the girls ahead of the Kerry festival, which started last Friday.
Soon the building was buzzing with chatter as the Roses greeted and posed for photos with those who had turned up.
For Darwin Rose, Sheila McAndrew from Rathcoffey, it is the first time she has been home since moving Down Under three years ago.
“It’s been amazing to see family and friends, especially here tonight,” said the 24-year-old, who together with a friend runs a cleaning company called Maid in Darwin.
“My friend Regina O’Keeffe actually got me involved in it and I never thought I’d actually have the opportunity to represent Darwin. It’s an amazing honour and I’m having such fun with the girls at the moment. It’s been fantastic.”
Asked what she was looking forward to most about the festival, Sheila replied: “Everything, just everything. Just meeting the girls and being on tour and seeing all the different lovely places around Ireland.”
Sheila is not the only Rose with a Lily background. Both the Texas and the Washington DC Roses have Kildare ancestry.
Texas Rose Kelly Gaetano told the Leader it was “wonderful” to be in Newbridge where some of her ancestors are from. It’s her second visit to Ireland, the first coming a few months ago.
“I actually came for the first time for the regionals in Portlaoise. My family spent some time in Kildare.”
Some people brought notebooks for each of the Roses to sign, including several young girls hoping to follow in the Roses’ footsteps some day. 11-year-old Melanie Cross from Balinafa, Prosperous came dressed for the occasion, wearing a yellow ball gown. She got to stand in the line-up with the Roses during the photographs outside.
Three more 11-year-olds, Lauren, Ellen and Jessica, friends from Scoil Bhrid in Naas, spent the evening skipping from Rose to Rose, trying to get their signatures and photos.
“They’re all really good,” said Lauren. “I don’t have a favourite,” smiled Jessica. “They’re all lovely,” added Ellen.
Life isn’t always easy for a Rose, however, as Washington DC Rose Briana Apgar revealed. “Sometimes I smile so much my cheeks hurt,” she said. “But it’s because you’re having the time of your life.”
- Liam Godinho