Big Apple's Rose woos Tralee to win the crown
START spreading the news ... the 42nd Rose of Tralee is from New York. Last night Roisin Ryan Egenton from Fanwood, New Jersey was crowned as the ``loveliest and fairest'' of 28 girls from around the world.
It was a dream come true for the 23-year-old whose ambition is to live and work in Ireland.
And with her moment of glory the pale moon set for another year on the annual contradiction of feminine chastity and all-night carousing which is the Rose of Tralee Festival.
There are those who will breathe a sign of relief that, for the next 12 months at least, they can safely flick on the TV without coming across a saccharine-soaked cross between a beauty pageant and an amateur cabaret.
But most of us will have to admit that we were there - in TAM ratings if not in spirit - to watch as Marty Whelan put this year's bevy of beauties through their paces.
RTE is definitely having the last laugh at the cynics after a record 1.3m viewers watched the first half of the selection on Monday night and an estimated 1.5m tuned in again last night, the biggest audience ever.
So, while many of them are reluctant to admit it, half the country saw at least a few minutes of this year's show.
Organisers were at a loss to explain why almost twice as many people as last year watched the first half of the show on Monday night, but it appears to have a lot of do with the convenient leaking of the identity of ``secret'' guests Westlife.
And whatever about the audience, for the girls who enter, becoming the Rose of Tralee has some very real advantages.
Roisin is £4,000 better off this morning, including £1,000 in SuperValu vouchers.
She was also presented with a unique Waterford Crystal Trophy, a WAP phone and handheld computer and a year's supply of beauty treatments and advice from Oil of Olay.
A year's supply of Cadbury's Roses will also be forwarded to the children's charity of her choice.
Apart from the prizes, the Rose of Tralee has the potential to earn up to £10,000 in appearance money for the functions she will attend during the coming year.
For 1999 Rose Geraldine O'Grady, last night was the first in a entire year when she could afford to really let her hair down as the spotlight shifted to the Millennium Rose.
But not before international fashion designer Paul Costelloe presented her with a specially-commissioned evening gown at the Kerryman Gala Banquet.
Now that she has the inside track, the 23-year-old from Macroom might be in a position to explain to the rest of us poor bewildered souls why this apparently out-dated festival works.
When Geraldine returns to University College Cork to take an MA course in women's studies, she is considering doing an ``academic study'' of the Rose of Tralee.