By Anne Lucey
One of the country’s top festivals, the Rose of Tralee, is continuing to battle for funding.
Despite two nights of live televised viewing, the festival which is reportedly worth about €15m to the local economy every year, is struggling to secure offers of funding locally.
The event’s managing director, Anthony O’Gara, has said: “Tralee needs to be prouder.”
Credited with turning the festival around, financially, after taking it over in 2004, Mr O’Gara the continuing efforts to collect money from many businesses, service providers and professionals in Kerry’s county town is difficult.
The festival, this August, is celebrating its 59th year.
Mr O’Gara said the past 10 years had been difficult and the festival had relied on itself, largely, to raise funding.
He disclosed that just €40,000 of the huge €355,000 street entertainment bill was contributed by the local community.
The event is based around a star-crossed tragic love story between a man from the landed gentry and a poor shoemaker’s daughter.
An attempt to seek funding from the Irish diaspora started in 1959 on a budget of under £800.
The overall cost of running the five-day festival is €1.3m.
Significant cost items include the erection each year of the main venue, the Dome, a temporary structure studded with stars which house the Rose selections, as well as fashion shows, balls, and concerts.
Mr O’Gara said he believed many individual professionals along with many of the larger businesses, “should be contributing more”.
Street entertainment, he said, which benefits the town is free and remains a hallmark of the festival.
Some of the musical acts range from High Kings and Jake Carter to jazz and classical music sessions.
“It isn’t what it should be. We need to be prouder as a town,” Mr O’Gara said of the local support. He told Radio Kerry the contribution, locally, should be €100,000 — half the amount contributed by 60 global centres. International organisers also bear their own costs in relation to attendance and the arrival of their contestants.
Mr O’Gara said it “was a lot of stress on them financially to travel from the likes of Australia and still have to contribute directly”.
He acknowledged local sponsors and, among the larger sponsors in the region was Kerry County Council. Mr O’Gara said the festival “isn’t putting on the poor mouth” but needed support.
“We are appealing to businesses to dig deeper and especially to those who contribute nothing at all,” he said.
He said Tesco, locally, is making a significant contribution this year.The festival begins on Friday, August 17, and a symposium at the Kerry County Museum on Monday, August 20 will examine whether the Rose of Tralee story is fact or fiction, or a mixture of both.Meanwhile, the spectacular Miracoco Luminarium will stretch through one of the town’s main parks while the actual Tralee Rose Garden will provide the backdrop for the contestants during the day.This year’s festival runs from August 17 to 21st and the rose selection will be televised over two nights with host Daithi O Se.