after our drive around the Dingle Peninsula in the morning, Nico and Kelly planned to take the early afternoon train to Dublin so that they’d be able to enjoy the city a bit.
unbeknownst to us, the city of Tralee was hosting the 50th annual Rose of Tralee International Festival. what is this festival you ask? we had NO IDEA. as near as we could deduce from the festival saturation on the Kerry radio station, it all revolved around the selection of the “prettiest Rose at the Festival.” who were these “Roses” we demanded? why did this warrant taking over the town, shutting down access from one side of town (the side from which we approached) to the other (where the train station was)? why were there stalls blocking up the road leading to the Kerry the Kingdom museum? the answer to all of these questions: no ruddy idea.
tonight I finally got around to googling the Festival to find out just why it was such a big deal, and what the hell was going on, anyway. as the festival website explains: “Every year more than 30 International Roses come to Tralee, supported by friends and family. The Festival comprises Rose Selection, family carnival, fashion show and live concerts, in addition to welcoming visitors and delegates from regions worldwide represented by each Rose. During this time the town’s streets are transformed into a feast of parades, music, circus, funfair, markets and live performance.” the Roses are women of Irish decent (most of them are from Ireland) who are selected over the course of the year at “Rose Centres”. the crowning event of the Festival is the selection of the year’s Rose of Tralee, which is broadcast live over RTE on two successive nights.
probably it had a lot to do with getting stuck in the thick of it, and only having the radio to listen to as I drove all over Co. Kerry (and then north to Co. Clare), but for those couple of days, it seemed like the Rose of Tralee Festival was three times bigger than the Miss America Pageant. and thinking back it came off more genuine and less sleazy. it felt more like a Festival, I suppose, and less like a spectacle of female flesh, though that’s based on my limited time searching frantically for the train station, thwarted on several counts by Festival activities, and hours in the car channel surfing past coverage of this event or that event, reminders about upcoming activities, discussion the various Roses and their Escorts, and a distinctly euphoric tone of celebration and tradition. I guess it felt a lot more like a county or state fair, rather than a beauty pageant; and, on reflection, I suppose it was a lot closer to the former, with rides and craft stalls and funfairs and blocked up traffic and grabbing hold of your last weekend of holidays before heading back to school.
in summation: the Rose of Tralee nearly stopped Nico & Kelly from getting back to Dublin. it did manage to prevent us from finding the train station in time for the one o’clock train. even allowing 45 minutes after lunch to find the station in time for the three o’clock train, they had to RUN to catch the train. but they did manage to catch the second train, and I managed to get back out of Tralee and over the Conor Pass and back into Dingle for a second night at Dick Mack’s, and the first of my planned nights exploring Ireland on my own.
definitely the start of something fantastic.