Chicago's Maggie wins in Tralee as last year's Rose Elysha Brennan admits she 'slept in her sash and crown'
Published 24/08/2016 | 02:30
After all the pyrotechnics and political protests, the hand jiving, Barbie hooping, kickboxing and Irish dancing, Chicago Rose Maggie McEldowney was crowned the 2016 Rose of Tralee.
There were cheers as the precious Rose of Tralee crown was placed on her head and she was serenaded by Nathan Carter.
"I can't believe this is happening," she said.
"It is an honour …and I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity."
It is the third time Chicago has won the contest - a Chicago Rose also took home the title in 1960 and 1987.
The second live televised finals were less eventful than the previous evening, however.
But what could possibly top the drama of the night before?
Perhaps outgoing Rose Elysha Brennan would refuse to hand over the crown? Or host Daithí O Sé would get in a fist fight with an escort?
A rogue Rose could rip off her gúna and run starkers through the Dome.
"Anything could happen," one hack said in the Rose of Tralee press room earlier, and we all nodded in agreement.
The final 14 Roses took to the stage last night to win over the judges and Daithí with their Irish charm.
There were no fire balls, saucy samba dancing or risqué rap lyrics but there was - a hula hoop. With lights on it. So now.
"Actually it's not a hula hoop," Ohio Rose Kathleen Rose O'Donnell explained.
"Hula-hooping is something fun you try out, but hoop-dancing is like ballet with a hoop." Gotcha.
Kathleen spoke about the hooping community and advised other roses: "If you're in a bad mood or a good mood just hoop it out," she said.
Kathleen was asked if she knew of the double entendre the word "hoop" has in Dublinese. "I've never heard that," she said, wide-eyed. "Maybe it'll start trending on Twitter."
Meanwhile, kickboxing Rose Caroline Doyle showed off her fighting skills on stage. "Wearing a knee-length dress definitely made it easier," she said.
"There were nerves, but Daithí really makes you feel at home." The Offaly Rose talked about her phobia of feet, while escorts called on the spirit of Michael Flatley and Riverdanced about.
Once O Se & Co had wrapped up dress rehearsals, 'Wagon Wheel' singer Nathan Carter began belting out 'The Irish Rover'.
"I sang for the winning Rose two years ago and normally you don't do it again, but they asked me back, so it's a big honour," the Liverpudlian crooner said.
Beside The Dome, delicate- looking Roses waited to get their hair and make-up done.
"They are 16-hour days, so I think every one is feeling a little emotional at this stage," the New Zealand Rose Hannah Greally said.
Hannah had brought a total of 28 dresses with her for the festival.
"Two dresses for each day - one for the daytime and the other for the evening," she explained.
As girls' hair was pinned into place, the finality of the festival started to dawn on them.
"It's hard to think of it all coming to an end," North Carolina Rose Maigan Kennedy said. "We have gone through so much."
Last year's Rose Elysha Brennan was relishing her final hours wearing the crown. "I went to bed last night in the sash and crown," she said. "I took a selfie. I needed to remember this."