50 Roses to do battle in anniversary year

THE 50th anniversary of the Rose of Tralee International Festival is expected to be the biggest and best to date with more beautiful contestants than ever before.

Normally, 30 contestants take part but, according to festival director Anthony O’Gara, this year there will be 50 entrants to celebrate the number of years the contest has been running.

Many will come from new centres, including Newfoundland, Jersey, Arizona and Germany.

Former winners of the competition — which was watched by over one million RTÉ viewers last year — are also being invited to this year’s extravaganza which will take place from August 21-26.

“So far, 40 of them have confirmed they will attend. We are also inviting former hosts of the show, including Terry Wogan, Derek Davis and Gay Byrne,” John Drummey the festival communications manager, said.

Mr O’Gara welcomed the fact that the Irish Examiner has come onboard this year as media partner.

“We’re delighted to have the Irish Examiner with us on our 50th year. They were with us before and it’s lovely to have them back,” Mr O’Gara said.

Mairead Maher, Irish Examiner head of marketing, said: “Our partnership with the hugely successful Rose of Tralee festival is a very natural collaboration for the newspaper. It is a much loved festival which has proved its popularity by standing the test of time.

“We are especially delighted to be media partners this year as the festival celebrates its 50th anniversary. This is an incredible achievement for any festival and we are very proud to be associated with such success.”

More than 1,200 contestants will take part in heats at 73 different centres around the world for the chance to represent their city, county, state or country in this year’s final.

To put it in perspective, the first Rose of Tralee was chosen from just six centres and all the contestants had to have Tralee connections.

The current Rose of Tralee, Aoife Kelly, will be in Tralee for the event, but she’ll have her own special escort with her.

The 24-year-old from Portroe, Co Tipperary is getting married next October to South African Leon De Klerk.

“I met him on a bunjy jump in South Africa two years ago. He’s a dream,” the occupational therapist said.

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