Philadelphia’s New Rose of Tralee Selected
For the first time, the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee has more than Irish roots—she has an Irish accent.
Maria Walsh, who was born in Boston and moved to Shrule, County Mayo, with her family when she was 7, was selected on Friday, April 11, at the Radnor Hotel to represent the City of Brotherly Love in the 2014 regional finals in Tralee in May. If she makes the cut there, Walsh will compete with Roses from around the world at the annual Rose of Tralee Festival in August, one of the most-watched events on Irish television.
“I wish my parents could have been here,” said Walsh after accepting her crown.
Reverse immigration is apparently a family trait. Her mother, Noreen, was also born in Boston, but grew up in Leitir More in Connemara. Her father, Vincent is from County Mayo. Walsh has three far-flung siblings who live in Perth, Los Angeles, and Galway.
A journalism and visual media graduate of Griffith College in Dublin, Walsh is studio manager for Anthropologie Group at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, where she’s lived since 2010. She’s a serious Gaelic football fan and has played with the local Notre Dames Gaelic Football Club. When the night’s emcee, CBS3 reporter Jim Donovan, asked her “if you could have any superpower, what would it be?” Walsh said she’d like the power to guarantee that Mayo would bring home the Sam Maguire Cup this year. (For those not savvy about Gaelic football, that’s roughly equivalent to winning the Stanley Cup.) That drew applause and cheers from members of the Mayo Society in attendance.
Walsh succeeds Brittney Killion, a congressional aide, who said her year at Philly’s Rose “brought light into our family’s life” after a “year of loss,” including the death of her uncle and godfather. The high-energy, exuberant Killion, who can belt out a song like a Broadway star, recalled Tralee locals telling her “how wild my Philly family is and what good craic [fun] they are.”
The winner of the Mary O’Connor Spirit Award was 21-year-old West Chester University student Aisling Travers. The daughter of Seamus and Marie Travers of Counties Donegal and Leitrim, Travers was honored for her charity work. As a high school student, she founded a program to involve her fellow students in volunteering at A.I DuPont and Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. That grew out of a program, Kid2Kid, she founded to raise money for Beaumont Children’s Hospital and which was able to turn over $20,000 to the Irish hospital. She also founded “Pencils for Peace,” an organization that works with local middle school students to provide children in Afghanistan and Ethiopia with school supplies.
When a friend, Carmel Bradley, was diagnosed with breast cancer, Travers became part of “Carmel’s Crew,” a group of women who walked the 3-day, 60-mile Susan G. Komen walk for the cure. She also hosted an afternoon tea to raise money for the event.
Travers volunteers as a fundraiser with the McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance and the Delaware County Gaelic Football Club. Most recently, she traveled to Honduras to work with children at the Amigos de Jesus children’s home.
The Rose of Tralee Center added two new awards this year: Fiona Brogan who, like Walsh, plays Gaelic football, and is an Irish step dancer, was named 2014 Junior Rose; and Olivia Hilpl received the first Rose Gifford Award for best dressed woman at the event. Rose Gifford, 99, the first Mary O’Connor Spirit Award winner, personally gave the award to Hilpl, founder of the Rince Ri School of Irish Dance.