Longford Rose, Loren Katie Logan
It's been a whirlwind couple of months for 22-year-old Edgeworthstown lady, Loren Katie Logan, who was selected to be the Longford Rose in the annual International Rose of Tralee Festival.
And the big week has arrived as Loren Katie finds herself on tour with her fellow roses and looking forward to the big events planned for her in Tralee.
“It was always mentioned to me that I should go for Rose of Tralee,” Loren Katie told the Longford Leader last week.
“My ballet teacher Anica used to say it to me. So did my grandad. And I always just said ‘no way, I’m not doing that’.
“And then my grandfather passed away last year and I would have been so close to him. He was a big figure in my life. So when he passed away I thought ‘I’ll do it for him’, as cliché as it sounds. I thought ‘I’ll never do it if I don’t do it now’.
“I grew up with the Rose of Tralee. We always watched it. And every year we watched it, Grandad would be like ‘you’d be such a good rose’. I feel you need a push for things like that. And I’m so glad I did it now. The experiences I’ve gotten from it so far… It’s brilliant and I’m really glad I went for it, even just to push myself out of my comfort zone.”
The selection night itself took place in the Longford Arms in June and Loren Katie said it was a thrill to be declared the 2018 Longford Rose.
“It actually was so overwhelming. I’m not going to lie: I had no clue I was going to get it. I didn’t think I would because the girls were amazing. The stories they told and everything were so heartfelt and I didn’t think I was going to get it.
“So when they said my name, they said the Quinn’s Supply Store Rose, because that was who I was representing. And I didn’t know that that was me. I was clapping for someone and then I was like ‘oh my god, that’s me!’,” she laughed.
This week, Loren Katie is on tour with the rest of the Roses. This evening (Wednesday), the girls will enjoy a ball, before doing stage interviews with Rose of Tralee host Daithí Ó'Sé ahead of the televised interviews.
“I’d be delighted if I got as far as the television I think. That would just be amazing. And to win it, that would be surreal. It would just be incredible. Right now I’d love to get to the television but if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.
“There are so many girls and they’re all so different and so accomplished in their own way that any of them could be chosen.
"I don’t think I’d take it to heart if I wasn’t because the girls that I’ve met are amazing and I can only imagine the ones that are coming.”
Being the Longford Rose may be what shot Loren Katie into the spotlight, but there's so much more to the girl behind the sash.
A dancer, a footballer, and a speech and drama enthusiast, Loren Katie has a lot of experience in a lot of different areas.
“As a child, I was one of those who was always on the road,” she recalled.
“When I came home from school I was always going somewhere. I’m very grateful to my parents for giving me all the opportunities that they did.
“It definitely did shape me as a person and it probably indirectly influenced me to go for teaching. With speech and drama I’d be more comfortable speaking to a class. So it all kind of came together I suppose.”
Loren Katie studied primary school teaching in St Pat's and already has some work lined up for September.
“I’ve always had a kind of grá I suppose for helping people and I wouldn’t be cut out for medicine,” she said.
“Teaching is the closest thing that you can get to it - to helping people. Because if there were no teachers, there would be no doctors. You’re shaping people.
“As bizarre as that sounds… but really if you think about it, without education, they couldn’t get there. So I just like the impact that you can have on someone.”
When her stint as a Rose is over, Loren Katie looks forward to pursuing her teaching career but says she'd love to travel more.
“I love travelling and I’m very lucky that my parents, from a young age, brought me abroad. I was six months old when my parents brought me on my first trip to New York.
“I’d love to see Asia because I haven’t really ventured over there yet,” she said.
She's also toying with the idea of doing a Masters - “probably in Journalism or something like that”.
For now, though, her focus is on being the Longford Rose - and maybe more if she's lucky in Tralee this week.
And, when asked which Rose she looks up to most, Loren Katie said it's Maria Walsh who she admires.
“Everyone is different in their own approach to it. Maria Walsh is our judge, but I do think she was an incredible rose because she stood her ground and she was herself. She never changed her opinions, her manner, for anyone.
“I do genuinely respect her because I think it’s easy to go with what’s expected of you. And to be yourself is brave.
“I think if you put up a charade to be someone else, it’s going to fall. So you’re better off to just be yourself. If they don’t want you, they don’t want you.”
As part of the Rose tour, which kicked off on Monday, Loren has already visited Kildare, where she and her fellow contestants stayed in the Glenroyal Hotel and enjoyed some of the local tourist attractions.
Tuesday was a day for group interviews, while today (Wednesday) saw the Roses arriving in Tralee.
“And then we get our escorts of course and we get to meet our Rose Buds, which I'm very excited about. Mine got in touch with me. Her name is Faye Maloney and she's nine years old from Tralee.
“It will be a hectic week. It’ll be a case of getting dressed up and saying ‘bring me wherever you need to bring me’.”
Of course, none of this would be possible without the amazing support and sponsorship she has received from local businesses and the community.
“I’ve been very fortunate with sponsorship. I’ve had to go and buy my own dresses but I’ve used sponsorship money to do that. I’ve always been into my fashion and my style so I do have a good collection of them. There are a lot of dresses. We were going through them last night and they’re up on 25 or 30, so I'll have options,” she said.
“I just want to thank everyone in the community. I know I’ve already said it but I am actually so grateful. (Last week) I got a text message from my football club saying to come in, we just want to wish you good luck.
“And then when I went in, the Edgeworthstown fire brigade were there and they had the trucks and the suits and everything - all kitted out - and they had a helmet for me. And they were all there just to see me off and they threw a little party for me, which is so lovely that they’d give up their time to do that.
“I’m just very, very grateful for everyone’s support.
“It's great to see the community rally around because you don’t get an opportunity to see that. And generally, as morbid as it sounds, it wouldn’t be until a sad occasion that you’d actually get to see the support you have. But it’s great to see it in a happy occasion like this.”