ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
The Rose of Tralee International Festival is an event which is celebrated among Irish communities all over the world. The festival, held annually in the town of Tralee in County Kerry, takes its inspiration from a 19th-century ballad of the same name about a woman called Mary, who because of her beauty was called "The Rose of Tralee". The words of the song are credited to C. (or E.) Mordaunt Spencer and the music to Charles William Glover, but a story circulated in connection with the festival claims that the song was written by William Pembroke Mulchinock, a wealthy Protestant, out of love for Mary O'Connor, a poor Catholic maid in service to his parents. The first Rose of Tralee Festival was held in 1959 with Rose representatives from Tralee, London, Dublin, Birmingham and New York, with Dublin Rose Alice O'Sullivan as the first winner of the International Rose of Tralee title.
Today, The Rose of Tralee festival is held every August in Tralee, County Kerry, to choose a young woman to be awarded the title of the International Rose of Tralee. The winner is the woman deemed best to match the attributes relayed in the song: "lovely and fair". She is selected on the basis of personality and should be a good role-model for the festival and ambassador for Ireland during her travels around the world. It is not a beauty pageant and the participants (Roses) are not judged on their appearances but on their personality and suitability to serve as ambassadors for the festival. The festival boasts itself as a celebration of the "aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage" of modern young women.
The San Francisco Rose Center has proudly participated in the Rose of Tralee Festival since 1962, with Elizabeth McCloy representing San Francisco. Since then, San Francisco has participated every year, until the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic postponed the festival for the first time in its history. Today, San Francisco participates every 2 out of 3 years, to accommodate the festival's worldwide success, with over 60 Rose Centers globally, in Ireland, the UK, Europe, the Middle East, The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In 2015, the San Francisco Rose Center became one of the first centers to have a comittee entirely comprised of former San Francisco Roses. Our Rose Center is a collaborative partner to our local Iirsh organizations, such as the United Irish Cultural Center, the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, and the San Francisco Irish Consulate. The San Francisco Rose Center represents the City of San Francisco, the Bay Area, and California.