There was a buzz of excitement around Tralee town on Monday morning, as the annual Rose of Tralee festival returned for the first time in two years due to a pandemic-induced hiatus.
The streets were lined with lights, as markets, live music, and family festivals took place in various locations around the town throughout the day.
Eighteen contestants will take to the stage on Monday for the first night of Rose selection, displaying various skills and hobbies. The other 15 will appear on Tuesday evening, before the overall winner is crowned.
Often criticised or labelled dated, the festival this year modernised and diversified.
For the first time in its 60-year history, married and trans women were permitted to enter the festival, while the age limit has been increased to 29. However, organisers say no married or trans women were in the festival, despite the changed rules.
In his 11th year presenting the festival, Daithí Ó Sé said he thinks there is scope for it to become even more inclusive in the future.
“The Rose of Tralee is an open door. It’s made for everyone. Maybe we just need to sit down and say ‘who else do we need to invite to the party?’” he said.
According to Ó Sé, Monday’s show is “jam packed”, with a few surprise “party pieces” that he is involved in.
“The crazy one tonight is my own idea and I’m thinking why did I say I would do it. But I think it’ll be worth it, it’s a bit of fun as well. We all sit down then and see what we can do. We want people at home saying, what’s going to happen next,” he said. “We always try to do a big bang every year but we’re very excited to be back. You have the excitement of three years bundled into one week, and particularly the two nights of TV.”
Ó Sé said there are a number of stand out moments from his years of presenting, but one of the most memorable was the onstage proposal in 2013 to New Orleans Rose Molly Molloy Gambel.
“They’re still married. A lot of people said to me that it was some stunt but it wasn’t a stunt, these people are married and had a child,” he added.