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updated: 7/11/2011 3:41 PM

Arlington Heights Irish "Rose" gains fame on Emerald Isle

Arlington Hts. Irish 'Rose' gains fame on Emerald Isle

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  • Siobhan Carroll, of Arlington Heights, will be representing Chicago's Irish community in next month's finals of the Rose of Tralee in Ireland. Carroll is one of 32 finalists from all over the world chosen for the finals.

       Siobhan Carroll, of Arlington Heights, will be representing Chicago's Irish community in next month's finals of the Rose of Tralee in Ireland. Carroll is one of 32 finalists from all over the world chosen for the finals.
    Samantha Bowden | Staff Photographer

  • Siobhan Carroll, of Arlington Heights, an administration assistant at Northwest Community Hospital, will be representing Chicago's Irish community in the finals of the Rose of Tralee in Ireland.

       Siobhan Carroll, of Arlington Heights, an administration assistant at Northwest Community Hospital, will be representing Chicago's Irish community in the finals of the Rose of Tralee in Ireland.
    Samantha Bowden | Staff Photographer

  • Siobhan Carroll, of Arlington Heights, an administration assistant at Northwest Community Hospital, will be representing Chicago's Irish community in the finals of the Rose of Tralee in Ireland. Carroll is one of 32 finalists from all over the world competing in next month's finals.

       Siobhan Carroll, of Arlington Heights, an administration assistant at Northwest Community Hospital, will be representing Chicago's Irish community in the finals of the Rose of Tralee in Ireland. Carroll is one of 32 finalists from all over the world competing in next month's finals.
    Samantha Bowden | Staff Photographer

 

Most days, Siobhan Carroll of Arlington Heights works quietly upstairs in the administration department of the Wellness Center at Northwest Community Hospital.

Consequently, few of its thousands of patrons know of her fame -- across the sea, in Ireland.

Carroll is one 23 finalists -- and the only one from Chicago -- in the Rose of Tralee International Festival, which plays out next month in the town of Tralee, in County Kerry, Ireland.

She advanced to the finals after winning the Chicago competition in March at the Irish American Heritage Center, and the regionals, held last month in Ireland.

The festival takes its name from the 19th Century Irish ballad, the "Rose of Tralee." Its lyrics describe the "lovely and fair" rose of summer, whose beauty and "truth in her eyes" won over her suitor.

Over the weekend, Carroll wore her sash at Irish Fest at the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, where she helped promote the international festival and its focus on promoting Irish heritage.

"It's more than a beauty pageant," Carroll says. "It's about promoting the Irish community. I think of it as a global link, keeping people in touch with their Irish ancestry and where they're from."

Carroll grew up immersed in her Irish ancestry. Her father, Frankie, was born in Galway, where he was a popular musician. Her mother, Deirdre, hails from Waterford, Ireland. Carroll herself spent summers back in Ireland with extended family.

"She certainly has the pedigree," says Tim McDonnell, executive director of the Irish American Heritage Center. "But it's more than that. She can speak to the experience and is an excellent ambassador for the Irish-American community in Chicago."

Carroll attended Buffalo Grove High School, where she was a member of the golf team and on its gymnastics squad. She graduated in 2003 before attending the University of Indiana.

She now attends night classes at National Louis University, where she is working on her master's degree in secondary education, with the hopes of one day being a math teacher.

But first things first. This summer she is preparing for the Rose of Tralee finals, which opens Aug. 19 and includes a multitude of public appearances, parades and interviews. For starters, she needs a wardrobe of 23 dresses for all of the festival events.

Mary Kay Gavin-Marmo, director of the Chicago Rose of Tralee Center, says Carroll is the first Rose from Chicago to advance this far.

"They love her over there," Gavin-Marmo says. "She looks like the princess (Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge) and that could take her far."

Carroll calls it a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one she will always remember, win or lose.

"I've met the most incredible network of young women from all over the world," Carroll adds. "I'm thrilled to be part of it. It's been so much fun. They treat us like celebrities."

The Rose of Tralee Festival is one of Ireland's largest and longest running attractions. As one of its travel brochures proclaims, it celebrates young women by spotlighting their "ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage."

Crowning the newest Rose takes place in the Festival Dome in Tralee. At stake for the winner is 20,000 euros, approximately $30,000, in scholarship money, and a year of travel and public appearances promoting a specific charity.

The finals are televised live in Ireland and since 2006 has drawn more than 1 million viewers.

This year's Rose finalists come from every county in Ireland, as well as Australia, Dubai, Germany, Canada and the United States. Carroll is one of nine Roses from the U.S.

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