I will always remember the night of March 31, 2018. This was the night when my childhood dream of becoming a rose became a reality.
In a crowded room in the Anner Hotel in Thurles, the sense of excitement and anticipation was palpable as loved ones, friends and family anxiously awaited to hear who would become the next Tipperary rose.
All eyes were on Ollie Turner as the judges handed him the envelope which would reveal the winner. He slowly peeled back the seal and removed the card. I stood anxiously on stage with my fellow rose sisters awaiting the result.
“And the 2018 Tipperary Rose is…. Laura Durkan”.
I could not believe it, as the clock stroked midnight my fairy tale began.
I embarked on a thrilling adventure throughout the year being provided with so many amazing opportunities. From having a chat with members of the community all across south and north Tipperary to sitting with TV presenter Dáithí o Sé in RTÉ Television studios in Dublin. I did it all.
In the lead up to the Rose of Tralee Festival I attended numerous events in South and North Tipperary judging best dressed lady, supporting charity events/ fundraisers and attending summer get -together’s across the county.
I also got a chance to fundraise for a charity close to my heart cycling over 100km on one of the hottest days of the year whilst roping in my boyfriend, brother and sister for support. Needless to say, we could barely walk for a couple of days after.
In August I embarked on the two week Rose tour representing the Premier County. On the first day of the rose tour in Kildare as I entered the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth I will never forget being greeted by a little girl who presented me with an autograph book to sign my name.
This is what I feel is part of the magic of the festival, these children see every Rose as a role model who they inspire to be like and look up to. It is a celebration of Irish heritage bringing together families across the world to celebrate the Irish women of today.
Families from all over the world and Ireland line the streets of Tralee to cheer on and support the Roses. On tour we were treated like royalty getting to eat in some of the best restaurants in the country, visiting historic sites whilst being looked after by not one but two lovely escorts.
The festival was a fantastic experience. I got to form friendships and bonds with Rose sisters from all over the world and make memories that will last a lifetime. My mum and dad to this day say it was the best holiday they have ever been on which is a testament to the festival.
The fun didn’t stop there. I also got to travel all across the world during my year as the Tipperary Rose. In December I got to open the Christmas Markets in Frankfurt, Germany with my rose sisters.
One of the biggest highlights for me came in March 2019 when I got to fly to the city of dreams where anything is possible. On St Patrick’s day I walked down 5th Avenue in Manhatten in New York representing Tipperary as a Rose.
I will never forget turning the corner on 5th Avenue and my breath being taken away by the whole experience. Later that day, I attended the Irish American Embassy where there was a private performance by Irish musician Dermott Kennedy.
It was onto Slatterys Bar after that (it was St Patrick’s Day don’t forget) where there were two Tipperary bar men serving, needless to say I got special treatment for the night!
I am so proud to have been given the opportunity to represent not only the county of Tipperary but also my family and friends. They have provided me with a tremendous amount of support during my time as Tipperary Rose and for that I am eternally grateful.
We have shared memories that will last a lifetime and I am happy to have been able to have been on this adventure with you. Tipperary is where my heart is and to the next Tipperary rose, you are in for one hell of a time.