The Rose of Tralee, one of the country's most hotly anticipated events of the calendar year, with people tuning in all over the world.
The event takes place this coming August, 17th to 21st and this year will see many people involved in the festival who work within the agricultural sector, with over ten farmers set to take part as Rose Escorts.
From the parlour to Tralee -
One such farmer is 27-year-old Corkonian, Donal O’Callaghan who you may remember was featured by ThatsFarming earlier this year.
Donal is a 27-year-old dairy farmer from Watergrasshill, Co, Cork, where he milks approximately 200 head of cows each day on a 300-acre holding. Donal took part in That’sFarming’s Young Farmer series and you can read his original interview with ThatsFarming here.
Donal’s farming ventures are set to take a back seat for the coming months, as he and over ten other farmers are set to escort the roses at this year’s competition. Donal said he had contemplated applying two years ago, but farm commitments meant those plans took a back seat. This year, however, he wasn’t going to let it pass him by.
“I got the idea two years ago and I kind of chickened out, I didn’t end up finishing off the form”, said Donal.
“This year, the application forms came up and you could apply online...I then filled in the form and sent it off”, he adds.
Donal filled out his application over the course of a week due to being busy on the homefarm, with the deadline for applications in Mid-March. Donal then joined some of the many Rose Escort hopefuls for a range of interviews with organizers in Kildare in April.
“We had a group interview, individual interviews and an interview with a panel of two people”, said Donal.
Donal kept his application secret, for fear he wasn’t chosen, but thankfully he received the good news a couple of weeks later that he had in fact, been chosen.
“In the first week of May I got word that I got chosen for bootcamp. That was a weekend near Tralee, camping”, he said.
“It was a brilliant weekend and gave all of the rose escorts a chance to meet each other...The best thing of the weekend was that when we got down to Tralee on Friday to check in at the hotel, our phones and wallets were all taken off us. It was absolutely brilliant”, Donal explained.
Although a fun, technology-free, weekend was had by the Rose Escort hopefuls, Donal admits they were put through their paces. One such task given to them, was to cook their own dinner over a fire.
“It was just good, simple, clean fun...There was close to seventy lads at bootcamp”, Donal noted.
Some of the 57 Rose Escorts pictured at this years bootcamp. Picture Domnick Walsh
It was two weeks after bootcamp, that Donal and the rest of the chosen few heard the good news. To take part, Donal had to raise some funds through sponsorship to cover the participation fee and costs. Donal used his agricultural networks and was funded by five agri-business. These include Cormac Tagging, Glanbia, Southern Milling, Gouldings fertiliser, Dan Ryans Hedge-cutting.
“All of the sponsors were very good...They are all agriculturally based companies, so it was brilliant to get the backing. They have been a major help”, said the Cork farmer.
Although thoroughly enjoying the experience of his new glamorous lifestyle, Donal says he will make his return to the parlour once more in the future, trading out the Calvin Klein for his usual overalls, though he will enjoy it while he can.
“I won’t forget my roots anyway”, Donal joked.
For those wondering about the dairy farm at home, Donal’s father, James, is the man responsible for milking in Donal’s absence, with the help of Donal’s mother. They will though be heading for Kerry themselves, to proudly watch their son do his thing.
Although most look forward to the night itself, Donal himself is looking forward to having a new group of lifelong friends.
“It will be over before we know it, but it is what will come afterward that I am looking forward to the most. The friendships and meetups around Christmas...It will give me a new group of friends”, he said.
Roscommon Representation -
Another man set to take part this year is Roscommon-native, Paul Clabby.
Paul hails from near Strokestown, but farm in Fourmilehouse in Co. Roscommon and here the Clabby’s run a Suckler and sheep enterprise.
The 25-year-old splits his time between working as a Rural enterprise development officer and a DJ, while he also helps out on the family farm in his spare time and at the weekends.
“I have a burning desire to help rural Ireland survive”, said the farmer.
Paul first made the decision to apply earlier this year after being coaxed into taking part in the Roscommon Rose event. After doing so well, the Kilbride GAA footballer was convinced to apply for the main event in Kerry.
“I was asked to be an escort for the Roscommon Rose of Tralee selection and I happened to win it. I got a good taste of what an escort is about”, he said.
“I then sat down and applied for it and got called for interview in Maynooth”, he added.
From here, Paul was called up to bootcamp, a weekend he thoroughly enjoyed.
“It was a brilliant weekend I have to say...It was very good”, he said.
Paul then received the ‘exciting’ news that he had graduated to become a fully fledged Rose Escort. The 25-year-old will now fly the flag for the Rossies, with Roscommon Rose and good friend, Eimear Reynolds.
“It is a huge honour to be representing Roscommon down there. I don’t know if I am half mad or what, but it should be a bit of craic anyway”, Paul laughed.
To get to the event, Paul received sponsorship from the bar where he is resident DJ in Roscommon town, the Red Parrot Pub. He also got partially funded by Donnellan’s & Co menswear.
“I have to say between the Red parrot pub and Donnellan’s & Co menswear, they have done so much for me”, said Paul.
Paul noted that already the group are like a big family and even joked his new contacts means he will be well-stocked fodder-wise for the coming winter.
“It is just really exciting to go down and get a taste of the festival and meet this whole new family of friends...It is some craic between all the farmers. The beauty of it is you have so many people from so many different areas and backgrounds. It is great to see”, Paul noted.
“I am hoping to get straw at a nice cheap deal this year, I will have to pull a few strings with the Cork lads but I think I might work it”, he joked.
Other Farmers -
The other farmers include Colm Parke from Sligo, Kieran Dunphy from Waterford, Andrew Corrigan from Carlow, Shane Foran from Waterford, Nicholas Corcoran from Offaly, John Somers from Wexford, Tim O'Shea from Cork and Aidan McCabe from Wexford.
That is not where the agricultural influence ends either, as there are also a few other Rose Escorts who work within the industry. These include Patrick Cashman from Cork, Paul Kelly from Kilkenny, Daniel O' Connell from Kerry, Tom O'Keffee from Cork and Gearóid Sheehan from Kerry. The lads work in an agri-businesses off-farm, farming in the evenings and weekends.
A great group of lads, with in excess of fifty Rose escorts in total this year. A team of agricultural ambassadors set to take the Rose of Tralee by storm. The first night of celebrations kicks off on August 16th with the celebration of the roses and many events and musical acts lined up to perform over the course of the few days, such as Conor and Sean Price, a Rolling Stones tribute band, an Oasis tribute band, Hermitage Green, Jake Carter, Neil Diamond and much more.
To find out more about the event and to see what is in store, you can visit their website here.