Six decades of the rosary

Past Rose of Tralee winners launch 60th anniversary festivities

Simon Brouder

Reigning Rose of Tralee Kirsten Mate Maher was joined by six of her predecessors to launch the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Rose of Tralee festival.

Next August the world-famous contest and festival will mark its 60th birthday, and while the event is still eight months away, the organisers are wasting no time in getting the party started.

Last Friday, reigning Rose Kirsten and six previous winners met in Dublin to jointly launch the search for the 2019 Rose of Tralee and the festival's 60th birthday.

These past Roses were the first Rose, Alice O'Sullivan, who was crowned in 1959; the 1969 Rose, Cathy Quinn from Dublin; 1979 Rose Marita Marron from Belfast; 1989 Rose Sinéad Boyle from Dublin; 1999 Rose Gerrie O'Grady from Cork and the 2009 winner, Charmaine Kenny, who represented London during the festival's 50th anniversary celebrations a decade ago.

Kirsten encouraged as many women as possible to get involved.

"My entire Rose journey has been overwhelming in the most positive sense. It has been the most positive life-changing experience, and the only way to truly appreciate that it's more than what people see on TV is to enter your local Rose selection now," she said.

Some 59 years after she won the crown, the first Rose of Tralee, Alice O'Sullivan, remains a huge fan of the event.

"Over the years I've been constantly impressed by the people who run the Festival. Year after year, good years and bad years, they have an enthusiasm to keep it going. It has really put the town of Tralee on the map," said Alice.

"I think that is such an amazing thing. It does well on television, and that's getting the message about the town of Tralee and about Kerry that it's a really good place to be. Anyone who's thinking of entering the Rose of Tralee should just go for it," she said.

The organisers of the Rose of Tralee International Festival have revamped the selection process for 2019 by removing the regional qualification aspect of the event to ensure that every Rose who is selected each year will feature in the TV final, which will be broadcast from the Dome on RTÉ.

From 2019, each Centre will select a Rose bi-annually and 32 Roses will be hosted in Tralee annually.

Roses representing Kerry, Cork and Dublin will continue to be selected every year. The 2019 Rose of Tralee will run from August 23 to 27.