Category: Archive

Tracings Erin — 1st Rose for 2000

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Olivia Tracey

Our patron saint’s weekend just wouldn’t be the same without the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Ball, complete with 15 Irish-American beauties, all vying for that Southern California Rose of Tralee crown. This year, I had the delightful if difficult task of judging, along with a team of five colleagues ranging from Delta Airline’s pilot Kevin MacDonnell to the 1992 Southern California Rose, Kari Ann Gerlach. Also on the judging panel was Phyllis Mulvey looking groomed and glamorous, businessman John Ryan of Quality Assurance, and the happily retired John Murray, who was having a great time charming all the contestants.

While the international pageant itself, now in its 42nd year, has indeed a firm place in Ireland’s cultural history, this year’s newly crowned Southern California Rose, Erin McCreary, is making her own historical distinction as the first Rose of the new millennium. And distinctive she is indeed, a Scarlet O’Hara lookalike with a mind for medicine, and impeccable poise and personality thrown in. Standing 5-foot-5, pale-skinned and hazel-eyed with long dark curly hair, she is every inch a Rose, particularly in her pearl pink, old world, off-the-shoulder gown. However, even more striking than her looks is her acute intelligence, her ability to think on her feet and articulate with an ease that belies her 24 years.

The daughter of two doctors with one younger brother, Erin McCreary has not a doubt in the world that her future lies in the medical field, hence her Bachelor of Science studies at UCI (University California, Irvine) where she majors in biology/anatomy, and from where she graduates next year. Following that, she plans on medical school for another four years.

Mature and focused, this Laguna Beach lass of Cork ancestry is also warm, fun and friendly, with a natural confidence that leaves her audience relaxed and entertained. And she has talent. With neither a nervous quiver nor a note out of tune, she sang a rendition of Sarah McLaughlin’s "Angel" that held the 400-plus audience spellbound. This is a woman with 13 years of classical ballet, piano and opera training behind her, who delights in Chopin and Beethoven, and who is an avid reader of Ayn Rand, C.S. Lewis and Victor Hugo. Cultured and well-traveled, she has seen most of the United States and Mexico, where, as a member of the Flying Sam’s Club, she provides free medical care at various Mexican clinics.

Impressed! So were we. Despite stiff competition from some of the other Rose potentials, especially Amy Wise, Emily Burns, Colleen Cleary and Megan Barry dancing a slip jig, the winner was clearly a winner. They all shone brightly, but Erin shone a few watts brighter. As we say in the showbiz audition world, "make the auditors deal with you."

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In other words, be so great that they can’t ignore you. Well, Erin McCreary did just that.

"I’ve never had so many messages on my answering machine," she bubbled excitedly as she referred to an endless stream of congratulatory well wishers since her triumph last Saturday night. Her family and friends are of course equally excited and all looking forward to lending their support in Tralee in August, especially her 17-year-old brother, Graham, who acted as her escort at the ball.

Also full of the joys of spring was former Southern California Rose for 1998, Allison McGuire, 24, looking a knockout in a strapless watermelon-and-gold dress. Her sights are set on this coming July, when she will wed fiance Paul Young, 23, a reporter with the Long Beach Press Telegram. It will no doubt be quite an event, considering that she will have no fewer than seven bridesmaids, including her three sisters, Heather, Kathleen and Meleesa, all dressed in lavender. The ceremony will take place in St. Lawrence’s Church, Redondo, followed by a honeymoon in exotic Tahiti. Every best wish to the happy couple.

I also caught a few moments with outgoing Rose Kerry Lynn O’Connell, as pretty as ever in a gray beaded gown and resigned to giving over the crown to her successor after a wonderful year.

The International Rose CEO, Noreen Cassidy, flew all the way from Tralee for the Southern California pageant along with her colleague Breda Walsh. Noreen was very Versace altogether in her tiger print boots and a stunning champagne silk three-piece pant suit.

It is, of course, no secret that the former International Rose-turned-CEO has completely overhauled the Tralee pageant and shipshaped it into a truly 21st century event, which, by the way, I had the good fortune to witness firsthand last August. In fact, she had her own good news regarding the reigning International Rose, Corkonian Geraldine O’Grady, who is just about to release her first music album, the proceeds going to the Irish Heart Foundation.

Celebrations we also in order for the newly chosen Irishwoman of the Year, Mary Ann Murphy, and Irishman of the Year, Terry Anderson. Also in glowing form was Emerald Green’s Dr. Tony O’Donnell, along with his charming girlfriend, Dr. Mile Naugle, and his dear mother, who flew in all the way from Donegal for the event. The Irish Tourist Board’s Tom Heneghan was as jovial as always, along with his wife, Stephanie, CIE Tours James McKay and his wife, Yobany. Actor and musician Marty Maguire did a fine job as host, with the musical entertainment coming from the talented Ken O’Malley and the Mulligans, not to mention a stunning Riverdance-esque routine from the Kelly School of Traditional Irish Dance.

In the meantime, the newly crowned Erin is already busy with preparations for her first trip to Tralee in August, courtesy of Paul Downey at Celtic Travel (1 800 4 CELTIC). We wish her lots of success.

On a parting note to any budding Irish-American Roses out there who may be interested in entering the pageant, information can be obtained from the website http://www.irishfair.org. Alternatively, you can call the Irish Fair Foundation at (818) 501-3781 or write them at P.O. Box 2429, Toluca Lake, CA 91610.

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