Donegal Rose 2022 Katie McAteer is packing her bags this week for the adventure of a lifetime.
The Rathmullan woman is Tralee-bound to represent her home county in the 61st Rose of Tralee Festival.
She has two weeks of touring and events with her fellow Roses before they take to the festival stage. And she has no less than 26 outfits and four ballgowns to take with her!
Katie, a 24-year-old PR account manager at The Right Angle, says she is excited to make new friends, have new experiences and just be herself.
They say it takes a village, and Katie counts herself lucky to have a close-knit community behind her.
Having lost her father Frank at a young age, Katie has grown up with a strong support network around her, her mum Caroline, her older sister Orla and her younger brothers, twins Luke and Gerard.
“My dad passed away from a heart attack when I was four. We were all so young, but I didn’t realize I was in a single parent household until five years ago because we had so much support, from my granny and granda and my uncles and aunties and my mum, we never realised we were missing anything,” Katie tells Donegal Woman.
“Of course, there are ‘what ifs’, but there are a lot of things I wouldn’t change about my life.”
Katie recognises the positive aspect of her upbringing too, and as she grew up surrounded by strong women she is looking forward to spending time with 33 girls who share the same independence.
“I’ve met around 20 of the Roses so far and I already feel like I’ve made great friends,” she said.
Katie’s selection as Donegal Rose has already brought an uplifting boost to Rathmullan, and there’s not a day when she doesn’t get a kind word of support from someone.
“When I go for a walk now, an hour-long walk takes me two hours because people stop to talk and say they are looking forward to the festival,” Katie says.
Since the Rose selection in June, Katie has stepped into her new ambassador role with great pride, representing at local festivals, the Galway Races and visiting local schools. Visiting Little Angels and her former primary school, St. Joseph’s NS, were among the standout moments so far, she said.
“It brought me back to places that made me. It was so nice to meet the teachers that taught me, and to be invited to Fanad Lighthouse and do the tour was lovely,” Katie said.
She has also taken the opportunity to use her new platform for good. Her send-off fundraiser in the Beachcomber Bar this week raised over €3,000 for the RNLI and SVP.
“People were so good to come from Rathmullan and all over Donegal to support the night,” Katie said, adding her thanks to her main sponsors, Drumhalla House, and to her employer, Mary Crawford, who has been very encouraging and understanding during these whirlwind months.
“A huge thanks to Drumhalla House who have been my main sponsor the whole way through and I have local businesses to thank as well, there are too many to mention.”
The two Rose of Tralee final selection nights take place on Monday 22nd and Tuesday 23rd August. There’s already a watch party planned in Rathmullan, while Katie also has international fans in America and Scotland looking forward to cheering her on.
“It’s so nice to see people excited about something that I am doing,” Katie says, although she has happily played many roles in local village life herself. A graduate of Journalism and New Media, Katie is involved with the Rathmullan Film Festival which inspires young people in Donegal to be creative. She is Milford GAA’s Senior Ladies Captain and helps the kids’ teams. Growing up, she had part-time jobs in almost every bar, hotel or cafe in the locality.
As she gets ready to fly the flag for Donegal in the Kingdom, Katie says she feels like a winner already. “I can’t believe that I am on the road to Tralee. Whatever happens next, it will be grand,” she says.