Ravishing Roses deliver blooming great euro boost for festival town
Tralee gets ready for mother of all parties
THE Rose of Tralee truly boasts the 'X Factor'.
Forget the Mardi Gras, Rio Carnival or Seville's Feria -- during the Rose Festival in August, Tralee's Denny Street is the only place to be.
In fact, with hotel beds like hen's teeth in Tralee last night and Denny Street at times resembling the Pamplona bull run as rock band The Coronas cranked into full gear, you'd be forgiven for wondering if it wasn't the second coming of the much-maligned Celtic Tiger.
Recession? What recession?
Festival organisers last week anticipated crowds of 100,000, but many reckon they'll achieve that figure by lunchtime today.
From bouncy castles and the Rose Carnival to Fossett's Circus, the crowds echoed to the welcome euro beat of 'ker-ching'.
Last Saturday, a crowd of more than 15,000 watched the Parade of the Roses, which boasted 10 floats, seven marching bands and a fireworks display afterwards.
Part of the credit for the resurgent event this year is being given to new host Daithi O Se, who has captured the imagination of festival goers.
But a bigger reason is that, with incomes down, Irish families are choosing to holiday at home this year and festivals are now surfing the wave of better-than-expected earnings.
Last week, Puck Fair in Killorglin hailed record crowds. This week, Tralee is bracing itself for the mother of all parties.
All of which is something of an eye-opener for the 32 stunning young women who will tonight and tomorrow contest the Rose of Tralee tiara.
The bookies -- who have an admittedly hit-and-miss track record in predicting Dome winners -- reckon that Co Down social worker, Gemma Murphy (24), may just have that special 'X Factor' herself.
Paddy Power rates Gemma's odds as highly as 9/2, though Carlow Rose Jessica Adamson (23) is rated narrowly behind at 5/1 with Kerry Rose Veronica Hunt (27) rated at 6/1.
Yet Daithi and the Roses aren't the only ones in Tralee boasting their own 'X-Factor'.
Alexandra Burke, who won the 'X-Factor' show itself back in 2008, will play a high-profile gig in the Dome on Wednesday night, while Crystal Swing, the east Cork family group, will play a concert from the Rose stage tomorrow night.
Yet, irrespective of the winner tomorrow night, the Sligo music scene will be celebrating.
Sligo-born singer Patrick Feeney has scooped the honour of serenading the 2010 Rose of Tralee in the Dome. "It will be a great thrill for me -- I have always loved the song 'The Rose of Tralee'. I reckon I knew the words of it before I was 10," he said.
The Rose of Tralee selection process begins at 8pm tonight.