Ottawa Rose Centre

Sarah Thorenton

Sarah works in the Canadian Parliament as special assistant to the Honourable Wayne Easter MP, and would eventually like to work at the Canadian Embassy in Dublin. The 25-year-old has a degree in Political Science and Criminology, and enjoys creative writing, flower arranging, acting, soccer, Gaelic football, singing and collecting costume pieces and antiques. She loves travel and discovering new places, old Hollywood films, theatre, elaborate hats and her dog. After graduating from university, she travelled with a friend around Europe as part of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms project, which took her to Cape Clear in West Cork and inspired her to work with children to produce films based on Irish history and culture. Sarah’s Mum is from Montreal and her Dad from County Limerick.

Since participating in Tralee in 2009, Sarah has split her time between Canada and Ireland. Sarah currently works in the Embassy of Ireland in Ottawa.

Photos of Sarah as the 2009 Ottawa Rose, participating in the 50th Anniversary of the Festival

Sarah in The Tudors

Sarah, centre, in costume for her part in The Tudors while living in Ireland after the Festival
Watch Sarah's two-part video from the 50th Anniversary Rose of Tralee International Festival - from a Rose Perspective!

“Ottawa? Don’t know it. How close are you to Vancouver?” by Sarah Thorenton


In August 2009, I embarked on an adventure that would take me to the majestic sites of Ireland, the bright lights and excitement of Tralee, and would provide the nation’s capital with the recognition it deserves.
The 2009 Rose of Tralee Festival was a special year as it marked its 50th anniversary celebrations.  Unlike previous years, 50 Roses, rather than 32 were invited to participate in the entire festival.  Roses represented centres from all over the world and brought with them the uniqueness of their experiences but also added to the common thread of Irish heritage that was woven among all of us.  Not knowing quite what to expect when encountering 50 strong, intelligent and ambitious women spending the majority of the day in each other’s company, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was an air of celebration rather than competition which remained throughout the ten days.
We quickly learned that we were required to observe a strict greeting and touring schedule.  A Rose always appeared in fancy day and evening wear and rather than try to outdo each other, the girls were eager to share their wares in order to enhance or complete an outfit.  Honourable mention must be made to the Roses who walked through the halls holding purses overflowing with throat lozenges to ensure that Roses could continue to perform their many meet and greet duties. 
Prior to arriving in Tralee, our days consisted of songs and camaraderie while we toured around Ireland on the “Rose Bus”- a tour bus decorated with the festival emblem as well as the names of the centres we were representing on our respective windows.  We visited historic sites, took part in various receptions, and stopped at several local establishments in order to promote the festival and add an international flavour.  Each stop elicited the same response – an overwhelming sense of excitement and enthusiasm on behalf of those who were waiting to see us or by those who happened upon a site by coincidence.  It became clear that Roses had celebrity status in Ireland but this regard extended beyond a Hollywood-like image to include the position of role model and ambassador.  Our participation in the Make-A-Wish Foundation project provided us with the opportunity to assume these roles.  During several events, we had the privilege of stepping back and handing the spotlight over to several terminally ill young women whose wish it was to spend time with the Roses.  We were touched and humbled by the devotion and optimism of these true heroes.


When we finally arrived in Tralee, the reception we received exceeded all of our expectations.  As before, we attended events, receptions, and the magnificent Rose Ball, but were now quite literally armed with our devoted escorts.  We no longer had to keep track of our purses, schedules or most importantly the remnants of an hors d’oeuvre which may have lodged itself between our teeth! These aforementioned duties now fell within the realm of our escorts’ directives.  However, beyond these responsibilities, they continuously anticipated our needs, bolstered our spirits and humoured our many quirks.  The examples of their kindnesses are many but one that stands out involves an arc of umbrellas which was formed to protect the Roses and their families from the downpour outside of St. Brendan’s Church.  This gracious act left our escorts with drenched suits but failed to dampen their spirits.  Their roles perpetuated the notion that chivalry is not dead! 
The presence of the Roses offered the people of Tralee a respite from the effects associated with the recession.  As thousands flocked the streets to greet us during the Rose Parade, we once again felt the honour of being chosen to participate in the enduring tradition.

 rose parade

These reflections merely touch the surface of the Rose experience.  What I treasure the most is the time I spent with these extraordinary women.  The structure of the festival brought out the talents and individuality of each Rose, whether on the light side, in the form of spontaneous Irish dance and song in the streets, or to a more serious example of the administering of medical interventions by my M.D. bus-mate from Australia.  The friendships that were developed continue to thrive through Facebook, email and worldwide reunions. 


Ottawa now has a place in the Rose of Tralee history.  Our geographical challenge remains to explain that our city is a rather long walk from Vancouver. 

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