Laois has not one but two Roses in this year’s Rose of Tralee, because the Perth Rose has Mountmellick and Portarlington connections.
Kerrie-Ann Barnes, 19, returned to Mountmellick for some final preparations for the International Rose of Tralee Festival.
The beautiful young Rose was born in London to Stephanie O’Neill from Mountmellick and Jamie Barnes. The family emigrated to Australia in 2005, where Kerrie-Ann’s twin brothers Jack and Alex, sister Katie and dad will be watching the festival online.
“Growing up in Perth, I didn't know much about the Rose of Tralee, mum told me a bit, but when applications opened for the Perth Rose, she encouraged me to apply,” Kerrie-Ann explained.
Her nanny is from Mountmellick, and her late grandads family from Port.
“I'm very proud to have my roots originate here. It's strange to be back as an adult, the last time I was here I was only small, but it's so lovely to remember all the fun times spent with family and friends here,” she said.
Her mum has returned home along with a crew of local, English and Aussie supporters heading to Tralee.
“I will have mum, nanny Ann O’Neill, nana Maggie Balmuth, aunties Lenore Horan, Therese O’Neill and Sue Morris, and family friends and support from the Perth Rose Centre,” she said.
Kerrie-Ann works as a cosmetician and a bartender, and is studying a Certificate III in Education Support.
She has brought a stash of a famed Aussie snack.
“Tim Tams are delicious chocolate biscuits that are always a crowd favourite, you can't really get them anywhere else but Australia, so everyone goes mad for them. I have brought over a few packets with me for everyone to enjoy,” she revealed.
She is ready to embrace the busy week in Tralee.
“Each day there is something new to do, and people to meet. I expect to be busy but I know I will have an absolute ball, there's nothing like the Rose of Tralee, and I am so excited and grateful to be part of it,” she said.
Kerrie-Ann has carefully prepared her outfits.
“I have almost finished labelling my outfits for each day, and over the past week I have been getting last minute bits and pieces, now I'm just hoping everything fits in my suitcase,” she said.
The support is “ amazing”.
“I honestly cannot thank my friends and family enough for all the love and support I received from being selected, right up to now,” she said.
Kerrie-Ann and Laois Rose Maeve Dunne are among 64 Roses, with live TV interviews for the 32 finalists on August 21 and 22.