Annie Wright, 20, a Transylvania University sophomore, was named Kentucky's first Rose of Tralee on Sunday as Lexington 2012 St. Patrick's Day celebration concluded.
Wright will travel, expenses paid, to County Kerry, Ireland, in May to represent Kentucky and Lexington in the regionals of the Rose of Tralee competition. If successful, she would go back to the Emerald Isle to compete for the global title of Rose of Tralee.
The Rose of Tralee competition, which takes its name from a 19th-century Irish ballad, is held in conjunction with the Rose of Tralee International Festival in Ireland. The ultimate winner must be a young woman of Irish descent, who will travel around the world as an ambassador of Irish culture.
This is the first time Kentucky has ever sent a contestant to the Rose of Tralee event, which is a personality competition, not a beauty pageant.
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Wright was born and raised in Lexington, but her great-grandparents came from Cork, Ireland. She is the daughter of Doug and Sally Wright of Lexington.
"I grew up in a very big Irish-Catholic family," Wright said.
She also is an Irish dancer and a lover of Irish culture. Wright made an extended visit to Ireland once as an exchange student, and she said she is excited to go back again to compete in the Rose of Tralee.
"I'm so honored to be able to represent Kentucky and go to Ireland," she said. "I've made friends there, and it will be wonderful to go back and make that connection again, and say to people, 'I'm back and I want to continue this friendship and this connection between Kentucky and Ireland."
Wright won the competition over 10 other contestants. The competition does not designate runners-up.
WLEX-TV meteorologist Bill Meck was master of ceremonies for Sunday's competition.
"It's really been a blast," Meck said. "My wife, Connie, is Irish, so I've really been hanging out with a bunch of folks like my wife. I've had a great time."