In many ways, Tralee in County Kerry is a typical Irish town. It’s got a traditional high street (main street, as they’d call it in Ireland), a park, some churches, a museum, a folk theatre. It’s nice, but it’s probably not a place that screams “I’m special…Visit Me!”
And yet, Tralee (like Killorglin which hosted Puck Fair last weekend) finds itself on the international map, as one of the town’s annual event attracts some 200,000 visitors every year – the Rose of Tralee International Festival.
At first glance, you could be forgiven for mistaking this festival for a beauty pageant. Especially given the fact that it centres on 32 women – or roses – competing for a pretty crown. We say pretty, but it wasn’t always so nice – as evidenced by a few of the crowns on these former winners.
But you won’t find any swimsuit rounds here! Contestants aren’t judged on their appearances. Rather the competition is a celebration of aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage. Only women are allowed to enter, those each finalist is escorted by a strapping young Irish gentleman (“escorts”). But like we say, this is a celebration of Irishness and NOT a beauty contest!
The Rose of Tralee is a big deal, both in Ireland and abroad. Every year dozens of women from across the globe compete in preliminary rounds aiming to reach the final in Tralee. The winner, selected for her overall personality, gets to travel the world as an ambassador of the event.
While the Rose of Tralee selection is undeniably the festival’s highlight – it attracts a huge TV audience on Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ – a lot of other events go on in Tralee between today, the 17th, and August 21, including a street carnival, gala ball, theatre, some gigs, a parade and naturally, fireworks. Jedward are even set to play this year – fitting?
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…
(Featured image: Irish Philadelphia Photo Essays)