IT'S BEEN a whirlwind of a year for the Rose of Tralee, Offaly's Jennifer Byrne, who is preparing to hand over her title in the coming weeks.
The 25-year-old from Clonaderig, Ballinahown says her year as the Rose of Tralee was the opportunity of a lifetime and one she immensely enjoyed.
She has met and greeted people from all walks of life and has travelled the country and the world as the ambassador for the international Rose of Tralee festival.
And all of this while working as a doctor at University Hospital Galway! She took four months off her job to concentrate on her Rose duties, but continued to work for the other eight months of her year as Rose of Tralee. She used some of her annual leave to attend events and functions.
Home is very close to the heart for Jennifer; some of her most precious moments from the past year were the homecoming she received in Ballinahown after she won the title as Rose of Tralee and a civic reception organised by Offaly County Council.
“They are things I will always cherish. You will always remember things when your family are there,” she says.
She is delighted that her family enjoyed her year as Rose. Her parents Declan and Mary, her brother Terry and sister Lorraine attended several of her events over the past year.
“They still talk about Tralee like it was their best holiday ever!” she says.
She did quite a bit of travelling during the year, including visits to India, Belarus, the US, Australia and Dubai.
Among the highlights were her visit to India with the Hope Foundation in November, opening the Christmas market in Frankfurt, volunteering in an orphanage in Belarus and being a guest for the St Patrick's Day parade in New York. Other visits included Boston, Abu Dhabi, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
The New York visit was one of her favourite trips. “It definitely was a major highlight. We had breakfast at Gracie Mansion and marched down 5th Avenue for the parade. I felt like a VIP,” she laughs.
She also has fond memories of Dubai and Australia, not least a gesture by Etihad Airways to upgrade her on learning of her title of Rose of Tralee! “I had never been to Dubai before. I didn't realise how big the Rose of Tralee is over there. I got upgraded to first class on the way home from Dubai so that was nice,” she recalls.
She was so busy the year just flew by! “It's just been absolutely unbelievable. It has been the best experience of my life. The year was just a whirlwind,” she told the Offaly Independent this week.
“The experience of Tralee was just unbelievable, the parade, the Rose Ball, the dome, things you would never do in your life. When you see your family and your aunties there it is just amazing. There were so many family there and loads of my friends as well,” she says, referring to the festival in Tralee in August.
She recalls her shock when her name was announced as the winner of the international festival. “I never thought I'd win it,” she says. “I was on annual leave from work so I wanted to enjoy it. Someone said to me, 'Just be yourself' and that's the advice I would give to anyone entering the competition. My advice would be to just go for it. I have genuinely had the most amazing year of my life,” says Jennifer.
“I met so many people from all over the world, all different cultures, different personalities. People would come up to me every day and I was really blown away by how lovely and supportive people are,” she says.
READ AN INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER IN THIS WEEK'S WESTMEATH INDEPENDENT, OUT NOW