I travelled to the US of A on the 15th of March and I will never forget the experience I had over there!
I arrived in New York on the Friday night and bright and early on the Saturday morning I met with Unateresa who runs the New York Rose Centre and was brought to the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg’s mansion to hear him speak over breakfast. I was delighted to have the chance to meet the Mayor after the event and speak to him about the Rose of Tralee International Festival. There I also met with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny who is always so friendly and so supportive of the festival. Soon after we travelled to a Governor’s brunch to hear the Mayor speak again and I had the opportunity to meet with some incredibly welcoming Irish Americans who wanted to hear all about my year. It was really heartwarming to see how highly regarded the Rose of Tralee is in America.
That afternoon we were 5th Avenue bound to walk in the St. Patrick’s Day parade with a gang of the 2012 Roses and Escorts. It was a fantastic moment to march with Kerry County Manager Mr. Tom Curran and the Mayor of Kerry, Terry O’Brien. It was bitterly cold, it was even snowing, but that didn’t take away from the atmosphere of the parade. I was thrilled to see that so many people had come out onto the streets of New York to support the parade and I was welcomed with shouts of ‘We love the Rose of Tralee’ which made me enjoy the event even more. It is a memory that I will hold dear to me and was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
However, if I thought that would be the highlight of my year then I was a bit too keen! The next day I flew to Washington to attend a lunch networking event with An Taoiseach as the speaker and was really delighted to be there when he mentioned my attendance in his speech and said that I was ‘a fantastic ambassador for the festival and for Ireland’. I really didn’t expect that and was really humbled by his speech!
Tuesday the 19th of March 2013 is a day that will go down in Rose of Tralee history and is also the day when my dream of meeting my idol came true. I had been invited to the White House by President and Michelle Obama to attend the St. Patrick’s Day annual reception in the East Wing. I was thrilled to be invited but never anticipated what would happen next!! I went through security and was in awe of the beauty of the interior of the White House, it was so beautifully decorated and you can almost feel the history of the building from the moment you walk in the door. I had been kindly told be the 2010 Rose of Tralee, Clare Kambamettu and also An Taoiseach in New York to make sure that I walk up to the rope before the stage where the President would speak and here I may have an opportunity to meet the President. So without hesitation I made my way up to the rope to make sure I had a good view. I listened intently to the speeches and afterwards the President came by to shake hands of everybody standing at the rope and I shook his hand! He said to me looking at my sash, “So, you’re the Rose of Tralee!”. I knew he would walk away quickly as he was catching a flight to Israel immediately after the event so I asked him if it was ok to get a picture with him – so I did!!
It was an incredible moment in my life and one I will absolutely never forget. I will have to frame the picture along with my invitation to the White House as it was such a special occasion, never to be repeated!
After the White House we travelled back to New York city for a spot of shopping and sightseeing before heading back to Luxembourg. It was a trip that I will absolutely never forget and will cherish the memory of that moment forever!