The Rose of Tralee International Festival is one of Ireland’s largest and longest running festivals, celebrating 56 years in 2015. The heart of the festival is the selection of the Rose of Tralee, which brings young women of Irish descent from around the world to County Kerry, Ireland for a global celebration of Irish culture.
The New York Rose has a long history with the International Rose of Tralee competition, producing a total of four beautiful and talented International Rose of Tralee winners. This year’s New York Rose—Sophie Colgan—will be at today’s Hoboken Irish Festival.
“For me, a Rose embodies the growth and development of Ireland today,” says Colgan. “As a Rose I am proud to represent my culture and heritage where ever I am in the world. The festival has developed so much over the decades, and I am proud to represent the modern Irish woman, and to be selected is an honor for me.”
Colgan is originally from County Down, in the North of Ireland. Currently she resides in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx. “I fell in love with NY the first time I came here 2009 and pursued my dream to move here just the day after I graduated from College—July 4th ironically!”As New York Rose, Colgan the New York will represent the Irish American community and the New York Metro Area as she competes for the “International Rose of Tralee” title with other candidates from all over the world.
“I am not only representing New York,” says Colgan. “The Roses involved this year where from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as all three states where part of the selection.” More than just a beauty contest, the Rose of Tralee strives to represent the contemporary Irish woman. “I have met some really inspirational women that I hope to be friends with for a long time—young, intelligent women paving careers in various competitive fields. My fellow Roses study and work in vast and competitive fields such as nutrition, dietetics, teaching, liberal arts, construction, computer graphics, music, dance and many more!”
“Sophie represents a new generation of Irish immigrants who have come to the US not to ‘escape’ Ireland but to experience new adventures and acquire greater skills that she will one day take home with her,” says Steve Lenox, President of Irish Network New Jersey—who also served as a judge for the New York Rose of Tralee competition. “Through the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), the New York Irish Center, Irish Network and other outlets, Sophie has found a place for herself and is contributing greatly to the strength and vibrancy of the Irish Diaspora. Sophie speaks of her experiences as an emigrant passionately, represents everything about the culture that make the Irish so beloved worldwide, and is truly a role model for anyone that holds their ‘Irishness’ close to their hearts.”
Colgan is no stranger to Hoboken, often coming over to play with the Hoboken Guards.
“I am in Hoboken regularly to play camogie (female hurling) and socialize with friends. It is such a charming and beautiful place with something for everyone, steeped in culture and history, from Frank Sinatra to Baseball and the best of all.. arguably Hurling! I I feel at home there.”
Today’s Hoboken Irish Festival is principally based upon an authentic representation of Irish-American culture.
“What I enjoy most about American Irish Culture is the sense of belonging and community that defines us,” says Colgan. “It is like no other heritage. We are like a big family always wanting to help one another. I love our humor as well—never a dull moment.”
“Irish see the American people as ‘Dreamers,’ but this is a big misconception—their attitude to challenges and work ethic is refreshing. In my opinion we as Irish people sometimes limit our own abilities and may be more insecure about challenges than we should be, it may be because of our history and the troubles, certainly in the North of Ireland,” says Colgan. “However, we are coming full circle, economy in Ireland is on the rise and Ireland is reportedly one of the top ten happiest countries to live in! We are a great bunch! And more young people are emigrating to the States to gain valuable experience to bring back to the Irish economy.”
Of course there are the American misconceptions on life in Ireland. “Some Americans think that we are still using typewriters and have a starch diet of spuds and tea,” says Colgan. “Although I do love spuds and tea to be fair… and Guinness for that matter.”
New York Rose of Tralee Sophie Colgan will be at today’s Hoboken Irish Festival—running from 12-6 @ Sinatra Park, featuring an array of attractions: Hurling, Live Music, Dancing, Children’s Activities, Food and a Beer Garden. When she’s not on stage in her sash, she’ll be out on the camogie pitch for the GAA matches on the adjacent field.