By Kevin Kelley
Although she’s the 2016 International Rose of Tralee, Maggie McEldowney likely won’t be partying too hard on St. Patrick’s Day. She’ll be running in a half marathon March 18 in Ireland to raise money for charity.
Athletics has always been a big part of the her life, McEldowney said. The Chicago native ran cross country and track at Chicago’s Marist High School, where she now works as director of development.
McEldowney was in Westlake Saturday to attend the Ohio Rose Centre’s 2017 selection program.
Named after a 19th-century ballad about unrequited love, the Rose of Tralee title can be bestowed on unmarried women, ages 18-27, of Irish descent. Judging is based on communication skills, poise, personality and talent.
McEldowney, 27, was selected Chicago Rose on her third time entering. “I think as I got older, I became more confident in who I was and what I was doing,” she said, adding she likely learned to present herself as more assured and poised.
That confidence showed after Saturday’s selection program host Sean Lackey suggested the stunning full-length blue dress she wore represented the Chicago Cubs color. No, McEldowney replied, as a South Side Chicago resident she is a White Sox fan and was rooting for the American League (Cleveland Indians) in the 2016 World Series.
Asked what advice she’d give the 68 women selected to attend the International Rose of Tralee festival in August, McEldowney replied, “Be in the moment. Be true to who you are.”
The woman representing Ohio in August will be Meghan Adams, one of seven who participated in Saturday’s selection program at Market Square pavilion at Crocker Park.
The 21-year-old Middleburg Heights resident and Holy Name High School graduate is studying statistics at Loyola University in Chicago. The oldest of five children, Adams told co-hosts Lackey and 2011 Ohio Rose Bridget Linton she plans to return to Northeast Ohio after graduating in May to be near her younger siblings. Her career goal, she said, is to become a market research analyst. For her talent segment, she sang the classic Irish ballad “Danny Boy.”
While in college, Adams participated in the Semester at Sea study abroad program, during which she willingly participated in a longtime nautical custom of shaving one’s head when crossing the equator.
The tallest of the seven women participating in Saturday’s program, Adams is active in Irish dancing and, like McEldowney, is athletic. She plays club basketball at college and recently ran the Chicago Marathon to raise $1,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Adams said she was surprised when Lackey announced her as the 2017 Ohio Rose.
“I was not expecting it at all,” she told West Life. She agreed she’d have a heck of a story to tell her friends when she returned to school Monday. She had told several of her friends she applied to be Ohio Rose, but the majority had never heard of the tradition.
Two Westhsore residents – Victoria Korce of Westlake, and Maureen Ginley of Rocky River – also participated in Saturday’s selection program. The other four Rose applicants were Grainne Hutchinson, Erin Hogan, Kristen Buckley and Shannon Enoch.
Before giving up her title, the 2016 Ohio Rose, Kathleen Rose O’Donnell demonstrated the hoop dancing – a dance routine with a glowing hula hoop – that was reported to be a hit on the televised International Rose Festival finals in Tralee last August. Photos of the Cincinnati resident’s routine were published prominently in several Irish newspapers.
O’Donnell said her year as the reigning Ohio Rose gave her the opportunity to get to know the Irish communities in both the Cleveland and Cincinnati areas.
“I’ve gotten to attend events and have experiences that can only happen when you’re a Rose,” she said, “and each of them has expanded my perspective on life and what it means to be a global Irish citizen.”
The new Ohio Rose will have sisters for life in her fellow Roses, O’Donnell said, and “have friends in all corners of the Earth.”
“That’s truly what the Rose experience is all about.”