Rose of Tralee Regional Festival
2013 Regional Festival Roses at the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel
Rose of Tralee Regional Festival
The Rose of Tralee Regional Festival is held every year before the Rose of Tralee International Festival to determine which Roses will represent their territories at the International Festival in August.
The next Regional Festival will take place in Portlaoise from Thursday 29th May to Sunday 1st June 2014.
The event was originally established in 2004 in recognition of the fact that now every county in Ireland selects a Rose, and that there are now nearly 70 Rose Centres around the world. The Regional Festival is therefore the event that has been established to get this number of Roses down to the 32 Roses that appear on the RTÉ television show in August.
All Roses who take part have won Rose Selection heats in their own regions. Judges at the Regional Festival will choose a number of Roses from each region who will then join Roses from Cork, Dublin and Kerry at the International Festival in August.
Roses from around the world join those from Ireland to take part in a parade through the centre of town and visit top Laois attractions.
The Rose of Tralee Regional Festival is hosted by Dáithí Ó Sé who interviews each Rose on stage at the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel over three nights, followed by music and dancing until late after the show is over.
Read what this year's Regional Roses had to say about their experience at the Regional Festival Regional Festival in Their Own Words and here below:
Sarah Conlon – Laois Rose
As the Laois Rose, you can only imagine the pride I felt as the host rose for the Regional Festival in Portlaoise. The whole experience was incredible. As always the hospitality and kindness showed to each of the Roses and the Rose of Tralee International team by the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel, Laois Tourism, local businesses and local people was breath-taking.
Each Rose felt like a celebrity from the moment they entered Portlaoise for the Regional Festival. The style, elegance and beauty of each young lady shined throughout the few days, of course our stunning dresses, fascinators and Newbridge Silverware Jewellery did help! People looking in from the outside don’t see the outstanding work that goes on by all the International Rose of Tralee Team and the support they give to each of the Roses throughout the Regionals.
There were some highlights of the weekend of course and many of the ladies mentioned the Street Disco, the Vintage Parade, our fabulous rose buds, touring Emo House, our trip around Dove House Gardens and our Sunday lunch in the astounding Castle Durrow. But for me it had to have been the Civic Plaza Reception, having the honour of standing before Rose of Tralee Nicola McEvoy, 60 Roses, my Family and Friends and of course the general public of Portlaoise and saying my speech to welcome everyone into my home county was for me just mind-blowing! The overwhelming feeling of pride I felt that day as I began to speak is something I will never forget.
Although I will not be gracing the stage alongside Dáithí O’Sé this August I will be there banners at the ready cheering on the tremendous roses that are. The whole experience of the Regional Festival in Portlaoise is something I will never forget and can only be described as life-altering.
Laura Connick – Wexford Rose
When I, Laura Connick became the 2013 Wexford Rose, I was excited, nervous and positively shocked. I knew that it marked the beginning of something new, wonderful and life changing. This became even more evident as I left Wexford and headed to Portlaoise for the 2013 Rose of Tralee Regional Festival. As I stepped out of my car and saw a crowd of girls gathered at the door of the Heritage Hotel on the Thursday wearing their sashes, I was star struck and then had to pinch myself as it dawned on me that I was part of this too. A proud Wexford Rose! I trotted along over with my dresses, hats, stilettos, suitcases and smile and the epic weekend began.
For four whole days, I had sixty sisters from every corner of the world, new caring brothers and adopted mothers and fathers. I became part of the Rose family, a community, a unity in the love that we have for our country.
The Regional Festival for me in Portlaoise was a heart warming experience. The people of Laois opened their arms wide for us. I was on a journey. On the first day I had the chance to explore Emo House and gardens with the other Roses and go to the street party. On Friday, I went to the Civic Reception for the opening of the festival and this was very special because Nicola McEvoy addressed us and I felt that tingly feeling in my heart as she spoke. After the reception I danced the evening away at the Rose Bud Disco, the little Roses of the future can certainly dance!
The first selection night began on the Friday and I was excited about seeing Daithi in real life and listening to the other Roses speak. My selection night was on Saturday after the Vintage Parade. The Vintage Parade was the highlight of the weekend for me because my own family had arrived to cheer me on. On Sunday I felt we were treated like royalty again as we were given another Garda escort to Castle Durrow having attend Mass in Abbeyleix first and having visited the hospital there. It was an incredible experience. At the end of Selection Night three, we watched a short video of the best moments of the weekend and the tears of happiness came, tumbling down as I reflected on my experience.
This is just a brief insight to my experience of The Regional Festival in Portlaoise apart from making new friends, I have become part of a new family, if this is your dream, only you can make it happen, as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said ‘ friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold.’
Sara Moffat – Abu Dhabi Rose
On arriving in Portlaoise Heritage Hotel after a long flight home from Abu Dhabi I was greeted by lovely, warm, welcoming staff. From that moment on I knew we were going to be treated like queens for the duration of our stay . Everyone in the hotel were so accommodating and helpful for every little thing – from a creased dress to a delicious meal while on the run. On entering my room I was excited to meet the Texas Rose and now a lifelong friend- Haley O’Sullivan. We got on unimaginably well and without a doubt had the best week of our lives.
On our first evening we each received a beautiful set of Newbridge Silverware Jewellery that we wore to all the events. We were treated like royalty with Garda escorts, beautiful meals , champagne receptions and a chaperone team that were truly amazing. Each of the sixty one girls at the Regional Festival were outstanding, successful and ambitious young women. I can honestly say I have made a new group of friends that will stay with me for life. It’s hard to squeeze how wonderful the Regional Festival was into a short paragraph but all I can say is that entering this has been the best experience I can recall to date. I can only imagine what the Festival in Tralee has to offer this Summer, if Portlaoise is anything to go by it will be a journey of a life time.
Joanne O’Neill – Tyrone Rose
My experience at the Rose of Tralee Regional Finals in Portlaoise was absolutely brilliant. As I arrived to the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel on Thursday 30 May I had no idea of what a weekend I had ahead of me.
On Thursday I met with my roommate, Gillian Tierney, who is the Carlow Rose. I couldn’t have asked for a friendlier Rose to closely share the experience with. On Friday, everyone met for a civic reception at the Plaza beside the Town-Hall. It was great to see the smile on all the Rose Bud’s faces as they gave us a guard of honour before we received a warm welcome from the Mayor.
A highlight for me was defiantly the vintage car parade. It was great to see so many family and friends line the streets of Portlaoise as I was driven through the town in a vintage Corvette! During the 3 selection nights, it was amazing to watch all the Roses entertain the huge crowds with singing, Irish dancing, reciting poems and telling the crowd about their many accomplishments.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my family, friends, the Tyrone Rose Centre and sponsors who helped me prepare for my time in Portlaoise. Despite not making it through to Tralee I can honestly say I have truly enjoyed my Rose of Tralee experience and I look forward to the rest of my year as the Tyrone Rose.
Jessica Giggey – North Carolina Rose
My time in Portlaoise... Where to begin?! Participating in the Rose of Tralee Regional Festival has been an incredible, life-changing experience. This opportunity has allowed me to meet 60 wonderful, ambitious women from all over the world- where we created lifelong friendships (can’t wait for road trips!) and had the privilege to participate in one of Ireland’s most cherished traditions.
Over the course of the Regional Festival, we were ambassadors of our Irish communities enjoying local Laois attractions, dancing and singing at the top of our lungs during the street disco, riding in the Vintage Car Parade with our sweet Rose Buds, having lunch at Castle Durrow, and visiting local Laois schools and businesses – all while having the time of our lives. We were treated like royalty every step of the way thanks to the generosity and hospitality of the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel, the Maldron Hotel, Newbridge Jewellery and the entire Laois community… Thanks to all involved who help make our journey unforgettable!
This is the first year that North Carolina has participated in the Rose of Tralee Regional and International Festival and I am thrilled to be a part of the excitement and to be able to go home and share this experience. Still in shock (but so excited!) that I was selected as one of the lucky Roses who will return to Ireland to continue the journey to Tralee – Can’t wait to see the Roses again in August!
Ciara O’Driscoll – Scotland Rose
As a young girl in Ireland I always had the desire to become a Rose. When I Moved to Scotland I had the chance to represent a country which had not been represented in the festival in 30 years.
When I arrived in Portlaoise I was thrilled to spend time with fellow Roses from around the globe, we were united by our Irish heritage yet we were a fascinating mix of world cultures. Upon arrival I checked into the spectacular Heritage Hotel, whose friendly and professional attitude made my stay a fantastic experience. The first day was topped off by receiving a beautiful set of jewellery from Newbridge Silverware. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the town and welcome of the local businesses. We ate at some wonderful restaurants including the Maldron and Durrow Castle Hotel.
It was such a fun packed week, I struggle to pick one highlight, I am leaving out so much of what we did. Things that easily spring to mind was receiving a guard of honour from the High Nelly Club to the Civic Reception from Laois County Council and another thing I must mention is wearing a pair of shooting glasses from the 1920s that they brought with them. And an honourable mention must go to the Gardai for escorting us to all our engagements.
The Roses and I had some wonderful bonding experiences especially on the last night when we sang The Rose of Tralee standing on the staircase. And of course celebrating Daithi’s birthday was the perfect end to a fantastic experience!
Aisling Farrell – Longford Rose
I represented county Longford at the 2013 Regional Festival in Portlaoise and the weekend was beyond doubt the most fantastic experience of my life! We were treated like princesses for the entire duration of our stay and nothing was too much to ask. The hotel staff and Rose organisers were so friendly, welcoming and supportive, and along with their never ending supply of essentials (hairclips, hairspray, water, chocolate!) they ensured we never wanted for anything.
Over the course of the weekend, we were invited to a number of local attractions, for example I visited Emo house on Friday, we were treated to dinners and lunches, we took part in the vintage car parade to name only a few of the brilliant events that took place.
The incredible talent, wit and charm of the 60 other roses, from all across the world, just blew me away and I feel privileged to have met and now call myself friends with these truly amazing girls. It is fun and really quite a special experience and I would highly recommend for people of all ages to get involved!
Katie Mulholland - New York Rose
One of my fellow lovely roses told me recently that as a young girl, she didn't dream of being a princess- she dreamt of being a Rose. After attending the Rose of Tralee Regional Festival, I can hardly see the difference. The people of Laois County revealed themselves to be the definition of hospitality, making us feel not only welcomed, but cherished in every sense of the word. I first became involved in the Rose Festival to feel closer to my culture and more deeply explore my heritage, and I can honestly say that even upon my moment of arrival in Portlaoise, I had never felt more deeply Irish, or as proud to be so. By the last day, I finally understand the phrase "Once a Rose, always a Rose." The young ladies representing their many homes across the globe were positively awe-inspiring, and I was enthralled to be considered a part of a group of such strong, intelligent women. These will certainly be the leaders of tomorrow, and I believe I speak for all of the Roses when I say this is genuinely an experience, and a group of people, I will never forget.
Shauna Coyne - Westmeath Rose
To be chosen as the Westmeath Rose has been a dream come true. To have the opportunity to represent my County at the Regional Rose Festival in Portlaoise was an added bonus and an experience I will forever cherish. We had the experience of staying in the wonderful Portlaoise Heritage Hotel, wear beautiful dresses, head pieces and Newbridge Jewellery while having the pleasure of police escorts, fabulous food and tours of local attractions such as Emo House and Gardens, Mountmellick Museum and Castle Durrow. We got to party on the street with iRadio, dance the afternoon away with our fantastic Rose Buds and travel through Portlaoise in the Vintage Car Parade. I proudly watched as each one of my 60 new friends took to the stage with Mr Dáithí Ó Sé. Becoming a Rose has definitely changed my life and is something I would urge every young woman with Irish connections to consider. It is something I will forever be proud to be a part of, and as the saying goes “Once a Rose, Always a Rose”.
Marie McDermott - Manchester Rose
Since becoming the Manchester Rose 2013 I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people who have helped, supported me and made my Rose journey so far so special. I have also had the opportunity to be involved in some truly unique experiences which I’m sure I will never forget!
A highlight for me so far has most certainly been The Rose of Tralee Regional Festival held in Portlaoise, Co Laois. Prior to the Regional Festival I was filled with excitement and anticipation for what was to come…little did I know it would turn out to be one of the best and most memorable weeks of my life!
Becoming a Rose is something that I had dreamed of becoming ever since I was a little girl. So meeting with my fellow International Roses on the Wednesday evening to be briefed and given our sash was certainly a “pinch myself” moment for me. The reality that I was now a Rose had finally sunk in. That evening at The Maldron Hotel was a blast! Having never met any of the girls until about an hour previous to dinner and entertainment, bonds between us were quickly formed as we exchanged dance moves, songs and jokes. We danced the night away, and already it felt like we had been friends for years!
The next day we met the Irish Roses, we were all eagerly awaiting their arrival and when they met us for a tour of the beautiful Emo house and gardens our Rose group felt complete. Each Rose was a credit to themselves, their families and to their city/county or country they were representing. I have never met such an intelligent, inspiring and fun bunch of girls and thanks to them I have come away from Portlaoise with cherished memories of dancing, singing, and laughing so much that my stomach hurt! I truly have found friends for life from all corners of the world.
I think that each Rose will agree from the moment we arrived in Portlaoise we were treated like celebrities. From the stunning Newbridge Silverware we were so kindly given to the support and guidance from our wonderful chaperones, and for the fantastic service we received from the staff at both the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel and The Maldron Hotel. I don’t think I have eaten so well in my life!
As for Daithi, well what a presence! He made the daunting stage appearance so enjoyable and gave me some great laughs with his witty remarks and one liners. He managed to get some embarrassing facts about me out on stage which I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to live down so I’m nervous for what he will manage to reveal about me in Tralee!
The welcome we received on our arrival to Portlaoise was humbling. I cannot count the number of times my eyes were filled with tears due to the overwhelming support, warmth generosity and hospitality the people in Portlaoise gave us. For that I would like to thank everybody in the Portlaoise community and Co Laois for making our stay in Portlaoise so memorable.
Becoming a Rose has been a life changing experience for me, one that I will treasure for the remainder of my Rose journey and for the rest of my life. I feel privileged to be celebrating my Irish heritage and representing Manchester, the city in which I grew up. I look forward to Tralee in August to being reunited with all the 2013 Roses.