“I’m such a lucky girl; I’m still in shock that I’m going to Tralee,” is the reaction of Westmeath Rose Aisling Baker to her participation in next week’s Rose of Tralee festival.
Aisling’s qualification for the Rose of Tralee finals marks the first time Westmeath has had a representative at this level in six years, and overall she is only the third Rose ever to represent Westmeath.
The 21-year-old, from Lissoy, The Pigeons, is off to Dublin this Sunday, from where she will embark on a week-long whirlwind of activities as part of the Rose of Tralee festival. The Roses will travel to Galway, Westport, and Limerick in the coming week, stopping off in the Midlands on Wednesday for a spot of lunch in the Carlton Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe.
Aisling will arrive in Tralee next Friday August 17 for the opening of the festival, and will appear on the televised selections on Monday and Tuesday August 20 and 21.
A large Westmeath contingent will be travelling south to support the local Rose.
“I have about 50 supporters, lots of family and friends coming with me. It’s a very family-orientated event; my dad’s family are from Clare so there are lots of them coming down too.”
And there will be even more support from the Lake County as Sunderland Rose Talitha Orlandi hails from Mullingar, while Rosemount’s Niall O’Brien is taking part as an escort.
“I’m taking it one step at a time; there are so many events over the week. There’s the parade, the Rose Ball, the fashion show, there are so many events it’s overwhelming. I’m still in shock that I’m going to Tralee at all, it hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m such a lucky girl to have this experience,” says Aisling.
For the big night on stage, Aisling has decided on a dress from a local designer, Patrick Casey from Longford. She also wants to thank several local businesses in Athlone and surrounding areas who have offered their support, including Burgess, Olivia Danielle, Debs Bridal Showroom, Elliott Opticians, MOHH, Grogan’s, Michael Moore, Glasson Pharmacy, Athlone Show, Coppers, Linda O’Brien headpieces, and Paula Glynn-Gannon headpieces.
“It’s something every little girl wants to do but I never dreamed I’d get this far,” adds Aisling, who originally entered the context at the suggestion of her cousin and after “a bit of persuasion from my Mum”.
Aisling was crowned Westmeath Rose on March 31 in the Athlone Springs Hotel.
The newly-qualified primary school teacher has been working part-time in Grogan’s of Glasson, and hopes to secure a teaching job in September. She is a member of her college drama society, has won two All-Ireland medals for ladies football, and has been involved with positive mental health promotion in schools around the Midlands since being selected.