“I made many wonderful lifelong friends throughout my reign and I will always hold the memories of my experience close to my heart. I would encourage all the young girls to participate, for truly it is an opportunity of a life time.”
My name is Imelda (Kelly) Lunceford. My first exposure to the Rose of Tralee pageant was when I witnessed the crowing of the San Francisco Rose of Tralee as a child, while attending an Irish dance competition. From then on I dreamed of becoming a rose when I grew up. Luckily for me, the Irish Fair Foundation was selected by the Festival of Kerry Committee to run the first Southern California Rose pageant in 1984.
The pageant interviews were held at the Columban Fathers on May 20, 1984, and I was honored to be one of the contestants. On June 16th, in front of all the attendants of the Irish Fair at the Rose Bowl, the winner was to be announced. I remember standing on the stage holding my breath hoping I would hear my name. When at last the time came and my name was announced I was overwhelmed with joy. I was so thankful to all to my family and friends who supported me in attaining this dream. I reigned over the fair that year, and was treated like a princess. Escorted by a pair of Celtic warriors, I marched in parades, feasted with Queen Maeve at her encampment, and met many wonderful people. In August I was on my way to Ireland to represent Southern California in the International Rose of Tralee Pageant. I will always remember how excited I was to step into the car that had my name on it, and how wonderful I was treated. As we drove through the different towns, people would come running out of houses and stores to wave at us as we went by. It made me feel like a real princess. I had the opportunity to participate in many wonderful events including; touring Kerry Dublin and Cork, attending famous horse races, riding in floats in the nightly parades, and being introduced to the Lord Mayor of Dublin City and had a whirlwind tour of Dublin. My fondest memory will always be talking to the children and signing their autograph books. I will never forget their lovely faces and seeing new dreams being formed.
I really enjoyed the experience as a whole and am thankful that I was able to be the first person to represent Southern California at the International Rose of Tralee Pageant. I made many wonderful lifelong friends throughout my reign and I will always hold the memories of my experience close to my heart. I would encourage all the young girls to participate, for truly it is an opportunity of a life time.