Laura Ward cuts an ecstatic figure following her crowning as Longford Rose 2017 earlier this year
When 20-year-old Edgeworthstown girl, Laura Ward was crowned the Longford Rose, she couldn't believe it.
Her fellow Longford Rose hopefuls immediately rushed to congratulate her, but it took a few moments to properly hit home.
“I felt shocked. It took so long to sink in. I had no idea. There was no indication that it would be me.
All of the girls were amazing. So I was shocked when I got it,” a thrilled Laura tells the Longford Leader.
Now she's down in Kerry for the Rose of Tralee International Festival, which is taking place from August 16 to 22, and will see Laura join 63 other Roses from all over the world, hoping to be crowned this year's Rose of Tralee.
Laura would be over the moon if she were to win the prestigious title.
“I think shock would be the first emotion and then I would just be inexpressibly grateful,” says Laura.
“The experiences it brings are truly outstanding and I feel it would ultimately enable me to better understand and help people.
“I’m feeling all types of emotions at the moment. I still have lots to do but I know once everything is packed and I’m on the road I can just relax, take everything in and enjoy every minute,” she says ahead of the big festival.
“I think I’m most looking forward to meeting all 63 other roses.
“The whole experience will be incredible, but it’s the people we get to meet that make it so special.”
Since becoming the Longford Rose, Laura has attended various events, including Ladies Day at the Galway Races, the opening of the Killoe Men's Shed, and the County Longford Show, to name a few.
“(Being the Longford Rose) has been so much fun! I’ve loved meeting so many new people and I really hope I can do the whole county proud… fingers crossed!”
Of course, Laura is quick to praise the level of support she has received over the past few months. As the Longford Rose, she's certainly received a lot of attention, but she hasn't let it go to her head.
“I am so grateful for the people and businesses of Longford’s support. The whole experience is quite pricey and they have really helped me out,” she says gratefully.
“Just some are Moments Café, Duffy’s Supervalu Edgeworthstown, Keenan’s of Tarmonbarry, Luigi’s, Longford Credit Union, O’Hanlon’s Pharmacy, Ward’s Pharmacy, McNally Motors, Providers, Fabiani, Peter Reilly, John Joe Brennan - Painter and Decorater, Noel Murphy Fitness Factory, Torc Café.
“My family, boyfriend and friends have also been so good to me and helped me enormously since I was selected. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
“Any attention I’ve gotten has been support, which is really nice. I’ve also been working full time all summer so there are days when I’ll have an event in the afternoon and have to go straight to work then so it doesn’t take me long to get back down to earth,” she laughs.
A Psychology student in Dublin, the Edgeworthstown lady works part time as a waitress in Keenan's of Tarmonbarry.
“The staff there are wonderful and have been so supportive of my journey as Longford Rose,” she says.
Rose of Tralee aside, Laura is a highly intelligent woman with a keen interest in her studies and has big plans for the future.
She hopes to further her education in Psychology and run her own business, helping people to better themselves.
"I love reading books on positive psychology, self-improvement and the connection between the mind and the body,” she explains.
“Eventually I would love to have my own business where I could help people improve their lives.
“I haven’t quite figured out exactly what the idea is yet but I’m only 20 so I have lots of time to figure it out.”
Laura is one of the beautiful voices of the local girl band, Celtic Chique, and recently took part in the X Factor fundraising event ahead of the Longford Summer Festival, so it seemed logical to ask her if she sees music in her future.
“I love performing with the girls and I do love music but I don’t think it will ever be a career path for me,” she admits.
“I would love to get involved in more productions around Longford though!”
So not even her passion for music and performance will drag her away from her studies.
In fact, Laura's interest in psychology and self-improvement is so keen that she actually lists attendance at a big seminar as one of her achievements in life.
“I recently attended a Tony Robbins seminar in New York City,” she explains.
“He is an American life coach, author and philanthropist. His seminars are just incredible.
“I won’t go into it too much but I say it’s one of my achievements because I worked really hard to get the money to attend and I also travelled to it by myself.
“Everyone should listen to some of Tony Robbins material at some point, he’s amazing!”
With a drive and a passion like that, it would be no surprise when Laura does achieve her goals.
And, if being crowned the Rose of Tralee is one of those goals, she's certainly in with as good a chance as any of the other girls at the Dome this week.
But for Laura, who was pleasantly surprised to even be crowned the Longford Rose, it's all about the experience, meeting new people, and enjoying the journey while she represents Longford.
“Being chosen to represent my home of County Longford and its remarkable people is an honour I truly cherish and I cannot wait for Tralee and all that it will bring,” she says.
Of course, while Laura is certainly the Belle of the ball as far as Longford is concerned, you can't have Roses without their escorts, and Longford will certainly be well-represented on that front, with Killoe man Daniel Keogh all set to suit up for the festival.
“There are 64 lads. They’re all 100% gentlemen,” he told the Longford Leader when he was selected.
“We’re going to be very busy, from what I gather. We’ll often be on our feet for 16 hours straight.
“I’m just looking forward to meeting all the different people, to be honest, and hopefully we’ll maintain the standard of the festival over the last few years.”
The Rose of Tralee International Festival takes place from August 16 to 27, with Daithí Ó'Sé taking to the stage in Tralee, and our television screens on Monday and Tuesday of next week.
Keep an eye out for our Longford Rose, and if you're hoping to go along to support her at the Dome, find more information at www.roseoftralee.ie.