DOWN Rose Ciara Kelly has described the last three months since being crowned with the title as a “complete honour”.
Daughter of Seamus and Benise Kelly, Ciara took time out of her busy schedule amid preparations for this year’s Rose of Tralee Festival to give us an insight into what exactly the Down Rose has been up to and her feelings towards the nearing of the festival in a fortnight’s time.
Since her selection at the end of April, Ciara has been busy attending many events including both the Castlewellan and Newry agricultural shows and Down Races all the while being an ambassador for Autism Initiatives Newcastle, where she is still working full time as a support worker in the supported living services department.
A party was held on Sunday, 24 June in Cabra organised by Cabra Community Association to give its home-grown Down Rose a great send-off to Tralee and celebrate her achievement.
“I couldn’t believe the effort that had went into it, they had completely turned Cabra Hall into a dome, similar to the Rose of Tralee dome and they even had a car with ‘Down Rose’ as the number plate,” she said.
Ciara attended the Dublin selection night at the end of June where she got to meet all of the other Roses taking part and she was back down to Dublin on Friday, 6 July for an interview.
“The interview was very informal and more of a chat with the panel which included the 2014 Rose of Tralee. Each Rose got to have a chat with Dáithí Ó Sé and then another short interview with the RTE producers.
“The day was very relaxed and I suppose it was a way for everyone to get used to the surroundings and for the panel, Dáithí and producers to get to know us too.”
No Rose is complete without the perfect dress, hair and make-up and Ciara said she is very grateful to all the local businesses who have styled her for the many events.
“I really can’t thank everyone enough for helping me organise my outfits and making sure my make-up and hair are perfect.
“Seamus Morgan from SM Shoes, Rathfriland has provided me with three beautiful pairs of shoes for the festival and his brother, Gerard Morgan from JV Kelly, Newry supplied my dad with a great suit.
“Shelly’s Dress Hire, Warrenpoint and Wild Rose Boutique, Newry have both been fantastic at helping me pick my dresses, as well as Aimee Farrell Designs who has been providing the head pieces for each of the dresses.
“My stage dress for the event itself has been designed by Emma Murnion Designs, Camlough and I am so thrilled about it!
“I absolutely love the dress and cannot wait to wear it. It is completely unique to me.
“I will be away for a full 10 days and it is probably best to have two outfits for each day plus evening wear.”
Ciara also thanked Cut Both Ways Hairdressers, Rathfriland for styling her hair for each event and giving her countless tips on how to keep it looking good down in Kerry.
“I think we only get our hair and make-up done one or two nights at the festival and I am absolutely hopeless at my hair and make up.
“The Works Hair & Beauty Salon in Castlewellan have been applying my make-up and again giving me useful tips for my stay in Kerry.”
Ciara has been overwhelmed with the support from family, friends, work colleagues and Clonduff club members.
“There are a lot of people coming down to support me in August which is very exciting.
“All of the family and all of my aunts who first tagged me in the Facebook post to enter for the Down Rose will be there.
“I have friends who are travelling down as well as some of the girls from Autism Initiatives and of course club members including Club Secretary, Anita Brannigan.”
Ciara will be travelling down on Monday, 13 August and staying in Maynooth at the Glenroyal Hotel along with the other Roses.
They will be heading on to Kerry on the Wednesday (15 August) to prepare for the beginning of the festival on Friday (17 August).
“On Thursday night there will be a special evening to celebrate the Roses and we will each have a chance to go on stage. This will really be an introduction to each of us ahead of the main event.
“On Friday afternoon we meet with our Rose Buds which is something I am particularly looking forward to and of course our escorts, who will accompany us to the Rose Ball that evening.
“My mum, dad, sister Meghan and granny managed to get tickets for this event so it will be lovely to have them their supporting me.
“I am looking forward to Sunday as I get to spend about three or four hours with my family in Betty’s Bar, which has been allocated to me along with the Yorkshire Rose who is originally from Donegal.
“My dad has said he will be decorating the bar in Down colours!
“My family are so excited and proud and having them there, along with my granny is just the icing on the cake.”
There are 57 Roses altogether with 32 selected over the weekend and then 16 appearing on Monday night and 16 on Tuesday night, as well as the winner being crowned.
“There hasn’t been an Ulster Rose in a very long time so hopefully one of us will take the title this year.
“The festival isn’t as recognised up north, there is so much interest down south so it is great to be involved in raising awareness of it in County Down.
“To be selected and represent Down it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and for me, it is a true celebration of being an Irish woman.”
Ciara added that she is honoured to be representing County Down.
“So far I haven’t been taking it too seriously and have just been enjoying the fun of the whole experience, which I think is more important.
“Yes, of course it would be amazing to be crowned this year’s Rose of Tralee but I haven’t been thinking too much about it and have just been embracing everything.”
Following the festival Ciara hopes to book a holiday and take some time out to rest and get “back down to earth”.
“I will remain as Down Rose for the year, which I am really looking forward to and I will be back to being PRO for Clonduff.
“The club is throwing a farewell party for me on Friday, 10 August which is very thoughtful and it will be great to see everyone before I head off.”
Speaking about how the festival has made a difference in her life, Ciara said: “It has given me a whole new confidence within myself, I am now able to attend events, whereas before I wouldn’t have had the confidence to.
“I have definitely gained so much from the experience and I am so grateful to be a part of it.”