The Rose of Tralee International Festival is one of Ireland's largest and longest running festivals, celebrating 59 years in 2018. The heart of the festival is the selection of the Rose of Tralee which brings young women of Irish descent from around the world to County Kerry, Ireland for a global celebration of Irish culture. The festival also includes street entertainment, carnival, live concerts, theatre, circus, markets, funfair, fireworks and Rose Parades.
The Rose of Tralee is based on the love song ‘The Rose of Tralee’ by William Mulchinock. The festival takes place every August in Co. Kerry where a selection of women from around the world gather to celebrate their Irish roots. At the end of the festival one of these women is crowned the Rose of Tralee for the coming year. This international competition is celebrated among Irish communities all over the world.
The story behind the famous song is that of a 19th century wealthy merchant who fell in love with Mary O’ Connor his maid. Mary who was born in Tralee worked as a nanny. William describes in the song how it was love at first sight but because of the difference in social class between the two families their love affair was discouraged. William emigrated and years later returned to Tralee only to discover Mary had died of tuberculosis. He was broken hearted and expressed his love for her in the now famous song ‘The Rose of Tralee’.