There is little over a week left to enterthe Laois Rose contest, with over a dozen beautiful local roses already signed up for the first heat.
The format has been given a big shake up this year, with no more Regional final in Portlaoise, but the silver lining is that the new Laois Rose is guaranteed to get to the Rose Ball.
All 70 or so Roses will also be in the Rose Parade, and on stage in the Dome with Daithí Ó Sé, amid a week of festivities in Tralee next August.
Laois Co-ordinator is Anne Marie Bowe.
“Every Rose is now guaranteed the full experience. There is no semi final where contestants were knocked out, all go directly to Tralee,” she said.
RTE will be filming a 'behind the scenes' programme as well as the stage interviews, raising the profile of the competition, which has evolved to embrace modern women, particularly with the crowning of lesbian Maria Walsh as 2014 Rose of Tralee.
“This year's Rose of Tralee Alisha Brennan is a great ambassador, but Maria broke all the rules, not just her sexuality, but her short hair and tattoo. I think she brought it out of the dark, away from a lovely girls competition, and revived it,“said Anne Marie.
Girls are entering at an older age she has noticed.
“I think it is attracting older girls who have finished college and are ready to give it a whirl,” she said, adding that the only criteria is they must be between 18 to 28, and never have married.
She is busy taking entries and organising the Laois Selection Night, on April 15 in the Heritage Hotel.
“I am thrilled to announce that our lovely new MC is celebrity presenter Brian Ormond, so I am hoping everyone will want to come and see him in action, and support their Rose,” she said.
She is also happy to announce a new sponsor, Laois Shopping Centre.
“It is great news, it means a whole shopping centre is there to back us, and help prepare our girls to be ready for Tralee,” said Anne Marie, a nurse and former Laois Rose, now married to singer Damien Bowe.
She explains how the selection process works.
“Each Rose needs a sponsor, but we can match them with one,” she said.
All the Laois contestants enjoy a day outof sightseeing together, to “break the ice”.
“Next there is a day of selection, when we have three independent adjudicators with a Rose of Tralee background, meeting the contestants individually and then in a group, to see how they handle various topics and react to each other,” she said.
Lastly, the girls will be interview on stage by Brian in the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel, with party piece optional.
Their family and supporters will get a chance to loudly cheer on, with audience prizes for best banner and best dressed lady.
The closing date is Good Friday, March 25.
Apply online at roseoftralee.ie or see Laois Rose Centre on facebook.