Laraine Stollery NEW ZEALAND
Laraine Stollery Paterson became Rose of Tralee in 1966, representing New Zealand
In 1966 as a girl from New Zealand, the other end of the world, I visited the Kingdom of Kerry and won the Rose of Tralee, making my dream come true. It was the first time New Zealand had taken part in the competition so this made the win very unique. Fifteen other amazing lovely girls were there to represent their own areas and we had a lot of fun together at the Festival making lovely memories.
Life has moved on but the call of Ireland is still strong for me. I visited Tralee again in 1998 and it is wonderful to be back in 2009 for the 50th celebrations.
Also making his first trip to Ireland will be my husband George, we have been married for 40 years (our 40th anniversary this year) and we had two children. George has also represented New Zealand in rowing at two Olympic Games and many World Championships. Our son Simon was also a New Zealand rowing representative. In life we have had some wonderful things happen but we also have experienced a black time with the loss of our daughter Fiona at age 16 years.
My working career has mainly been in corporate management, then we owned our own businesses. Two years ago I decided to do something new and something that will make a contribution back to the community. I now am working for New Zealand Police in the Southern Communications Centre. This work is taking the emergency 111 calls and dispatching police units to the situations. It can be a very stressful job but is very rewarding when life threatening situations are defused and the front line police staff and other people are all kept safe.
My favorite memories of my trip was of course hearing that New Zealand was the 1966 International Rose of Tralee, but also the wonderful trips around the beautiful
Kingdom of Kerry to see the country, and also to meet the gorgeous friendly people of Tralee and Kerry.
The festival has grown to be such a huge success and is so much bigger than 1966. There are many more contestants today, from so many different places. I wish them all the very best and a happy festival.
I feel that life has come full circle as I return to Tralee for the third time. We look forward to seeing some familiar faces and enjoying every moment of an exciting and wonderful festival.