The Rose of Tralee International Festival kicks off in style today with the annual ball and they couldn’t have picked a nicer day for it — thankfully the good weather looks set to stay for the weekend, with Met Éireann predicting clear skies and temperatures of between 14 and 17 degrees.
While the Rose Ball is one of the most anticipated celebrations of a contestant’s schedule, the event also marks another day closer to the live finals and some of the entrants are, understandably, feeling some flutters.
“I suppose I am nervous when I think about it but I don’t get enough time to think about it!” said Cork rose Aoife Murphy.
“I just want to enjoy the weekend and I’m trying not to think about the live show too much. When it comes it will come and please God it will all go well and I won’t fall over myself when I’m walking out onto the stage.”
Aoife said the last couple of days have been “like a whirlwind” and joked about feeling like she had “won the lotto”.
“It’s just flown by so quickly but it’s been brilliant, we’re so lucky.”
The 25-year-old research nutritionist from Mallow confirmed she would be doing a party piece at the live shows but couldn’t reveal the details.
“But I’ve been told it’s never been done before in the Dome,” she added mysteriously.
Ciara Rafferty, this year’s Sydney Rose, said she was feeling excited as well as nervous but describes likeable host Daithí Ó Sé as a steadying influence.
“He really calmed my nerves because he’s really funny and he’s really easy going and we sort of had a talk and I know they’d never put us on the spot so I know we’re in safe hands,” she said.
“I haven’t had the stage experience the other girls have had so I kind of don’t know what to expect.”
Overall, the 26-year-old, who can trace her roots back to both Boyle, Co Roscommon and Greenore, Co Louth, said she was having the time of her life travelling the country.
For the last number of days, the Roses have been on tour, travelling to some of the nation’s most famous landmarks and enjoying various activities.
“I think what’s really warmed our hearts is the community of the west of Ireland coming out and waving and greeting us with flags and well wishes,” said Ciara.
The Roses leave from Limerick this morning and will travel to Tralee, Co Kerry to officially start the much-anticipated festival.
Various arts, crafts and food stalls will be selling their wares throughout the town, a petting zoo will entertain children and adults alike in the town park between 12pm and 5pm, while reigning Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh will be finishing her Trek2Tralee some time before 1pm. Maria has embarked on a run from her hometown in Shrule, Co Mayo, to Tralee to raise awareness for sick children’s charity Barretstown, Development Perspectives and Donal Walsh’s Live Life.
The night will end with local musicians, marching bands, a Nathan Carter concert and, of course, the annual International Rose Ball.