By Kevin Kelley
The Ohio Rose of Tralee selection ceremony returns to Westlake Saturday evening after taking place the past two years at the West Side Irish American Club in Olmsted Falls. The selection program will be one of the first major events to take place in Crocker Park’s new Market Square pavilion.
Seven young women of Irish heritage will vie for the title of Ohio Rose. The selected individual will travel to Westlake’s sister city of Tralee, Ireland, in August to join 67 other young women of Irish descent from around the world to take part in the International Rose of Tralee festival. The Rose of Tralee contest is based on a 19th-century ballad about unrequited love, and judging is based on communication skills, poise, personality and talent.
Of the seven participants, three participated in recent Ohio Rose competitions and are returning.
That’s not unheard of, said Westlake City Council President Mike Killeen, who helps run Westlake World Partners, a nonprofit corporation created by local civic leaders to promote its sister-city relationships.
The current Rose of Tralee, Chicago native Maggie McEldowney, won the title on her third try at being selected Chicago Rose, Killeen noted. Her immediate predecessor, Maria Walsh, won the title on her second attempt to become Philadelphia’s Rose.
“Both those individuals are so outstanding, people can’t believe that,” Killeen said of how each was passed over in her initial Rose try.
McEldowney is scheduled to participate in Saturday’s Ohio Rose selection program. Walsh attended the 2015 event.
Erin Hogan, a senior studying theology at John Carroll University, said one reason she returned this year is the number of friends she made while taking part in the 2015 Ohio Rose selection.
“I had such a great experience last time,” said Hogan, a University Heights resident.
Hogan and the other six women toured the corporate headquarters of American Greetings at Crocker Park during their orientation program Saturday. They also visited Studio St. Marie, a millinery in Rocky River; the script “Cleveland” sign at Edgewater Park; and the Irish Famine Memorial on the East Banks of the Flats.
Victoria Korce, a Westlake resident who is studying marketing through Tiffin University’s online program, said she was impressed by how many other women her age share her pride in Irish heritage.
Shannon Enoch, a Garrettsville resident studying communications and creative writing at Hiram College, also loved meeting others who shared her Irish cultural pride. Enoch first learned about the Rose of Tralee tradition from her Irish aunt when she was a little girl, she recalled.
Sean Lackey, a local actor and film producer, and Bridget Linton, a Fox Sports Ohio host and 2011 Ohio Rose, return as co-hosts of the selection program. Entertainment will be provided by the Irish duo The New Barleycorn.
Tickets for the general reception and selection show cost $65 and include an open bar, heavy appetizers and desserts. Admission to a VIP reception costs $125. To order tickets, visit the Ohio Rose website to download an order form or call Killeen at 216-409-5146.