By Kevin Kelley
Having a name that’s Gaelic for “grace” could not have hurt in the contest to be named Ohio Rose.
Grainne (pronounced Graw-nya) Mangan, a 22-year-old Cleveland resident, was given the 2014 title Friday night at LaCentre Conference & Banquet Facility in Westlake.
She will travel to Portlaoise, Ireland, at the end of May to compete in the regional Rose of Tralee festival.
Named after a 19th-century ballad about unrequited love, the Rose of Tralee contest is part of a weeklong festival in the Irish town that began a sister-city relationship with Westlake in 2009. The contest is open to unmarried women, ages 18-27, of Irish descent. Judging is based on communication skills, poise, personality and talent.
A graduate of St. Joseph Academy in Cleveland, Mangan will receive a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Dayton next month. She said she learned about the Rose contest from family members and John O’Brien, the publisher of Ohio Irish American News, which sponsored her entry. She said entering the contest was a great way to meet new people and learn more about her Irish heritage.
Also competing Friday was Sheffield Village resident Annemarie Cunningham, also 22. The Elyria Catholic High School graduate will soon graduate from The Ohio State University with bachelor’s degrees in history and psychology. She will pursue a master’s degree from Cleveland State University in speech-language pathology, the field in which she intends pursue as a career. Cunningham, who has studied Irish dancing at Westlake’s Leneghan Academy of Irish Dance, would also like to teach the subject.
Hosted by sportscaster Dan Coughlin and 2011 Ohio Rose Bridget Linton, Friday’s ceremony highlighted cultural exchanges between Westlake and Tralee. Anne Moran, a physical education teacher at Presentation Secondary School Tralee, currently visiting Westlake, called the Rose of Tralee festival “a celebration of connecting all our people.”
“Tralee really does rock, so I hope you’ll all come,” Moran told the gathering of West Side Irish. Moran is staying with Colleen Mudore, the Westlake City Schools’ International Baccalaureate program coordinator, who visited Tralee in October 2013.
2009 Ohio Rose Annie Dunn, a Fairview Park native, told of how Irish bookies take bets on who will win the International Rose of Tralee.
Dunn also described how Rose contestants are treated like celebrities in Ireland. “When I got back, it was awful,” she said of the letdown.
Outgoing Ohio Rose Kelsey Higgins told of visiting an orphanage in Belarus for a week in February. Many of the children there suffer from ailments caused by radiation from the 1986 accident at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, she said.
The nonprofit organization that runs the Ohio Rose contest, Westlake World Partners, presented its annual founders award to Pat O’Brien Jr., operator of the Detroit Road Chevrolet dealership, for his support of the contest. Westlake World Partners donated $1,000 in O’Brien’s name to a charity of his choosing, Youth Challenge, the Westlake-based organization that offers recreational opportunities to children with physical disabilities.