Hello all!

With less than three weeks till the Rose of Tralee International Festival comes to fruition, we thought we might take a moment to recognize the competition our dear Rose of Mayo; Sandra Ganley, has entered into.

For those who don’t know, here’s a brief background on the Rose of Tralee competition in the words of the Festival itself:

The Rose of Tralee International Festival is one of Ireland’s largest and longest running festivals, celebrating 58 years in 2017. The heart of the festival is the selection of the Rose of Tralee which brings young women of Irish descent from around the world to County Kerry, Ireland for a global celebration of Irish culture. The festival also includes street entertainment, carnival, live concerts, theatre, circus, markets, funfair, fireworks and Rose Parades.

Dozens of young women have come forward to compete again this year – you might recall from our previous mentions of Sandra that she has befriended fellow Roses from around the world! It might be difficult to choose a favorite, but it’s easy to be reminded why we chose ours…

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From left to right: Laura Ganley, Trish, Michael, and Sandra Ganley!

While each young lady is exemplary when it comes to Irish tradition and heritage, we truly feel in sponsoring Sandra Ganley, we’ve made the right choice. Between dance and languages, Sandra promotes a great deal of the Celtic spirit.

She and her sister Laura are, as aforementioned, well-known for their beautiful dancing! And Sandra, in speaking being the Irish Language Officer at Kilmovee Comhaltas, encourages the continued tradition of Irish Gaelic – you can actually hear her speak it in our most recent release for the upcoming Wild West Atlantic Way tour (which she helped inspire via County Mayo)! Sandra was kind enough to host this video for us, and we want nothing more than to see her succeed.

In sponsoring Sandra, we also believe in choosing someone who best embodies compassion, enthusiasm, and heart. She has inspired us beyond belief, and it has been a privilege to see her grow as an individual to pursue her dreams. You can take a moment to read her bio on the Rose of Tralee website here, if you like – it describes her better than perhaps we ever could.

Please show your support for Sandra by following her Facebook page and spreading the word! We’d love for everyone on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere to cheer Sandra on!

Stay tuned for the festivities of the Rose of Tralee in a mere 20 days!

Until next time,

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours Scribe

Wild West Irish Tours are proud to unveil our new Wild West Atlantic Way Video and Tour, starring 2017 Mayo Rose of Tralee, Sandra Ganley.

We have been bringing “wild westies” to the Wild West of Ireland for years now, and we now present a “best of” tour (along the “Wild Atlantic Way”) of our favorite locations from our four fabulous tours — The Signature Tour, Clare-Connemara, Wild Atlantic Causeway Coast, and our Celtic Pilgrimage.

The Wild West of Ireland

For a brief overview of this 10-day adventure, we begin by meeting you in Dublin, and whisk you away to County Clare, where we combine some of our hidden gems with the iconic Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands and the Burren, just to name a few. We spend three days in Clare and parts of Galway, exploring castles, ancient fort ruins, mystical holy wells, cliffs along the Loophead Peninsula,  and take in some of the best traditional Irish music in the town of Ennis.

We move north to the rugged and mountainous Connemara, in County Galway and take in the stunning and breathtaking “Twelve Bens.” We have the freedom to explore the quaint fishing villages and sail out on Lough Corrib to explore an ancient island and its relics of the past. The famous Ashford Castle is nestled by the Lough and we will have the option to visit. But it is the “great things in simple places” that we love and we bring you to hidden waterfalls and magical glens. Up we go through County Mayo’s Doon Lough Valley, and the majestic Crough Patrick.

It is on to our home-away-from-home, counties Sligo and Leitrim, where you will experience the Dartry Mountain range, Benbulben, one or two boat excursions (depending on sea conditions) sheepherding demonstrations, and a dramatic re-enactment of the Spanish Armada’s fateful meeting with the local Sligo population! This is the area of our Signature Tour and where we love to show off the “what is seldom is wonderful” aspect of our adventures.

We head up to County Donegal for Slieve League, Inishowen, and lovely villages all the way up to Malin Head. We visit the walled City of Derry and visit the iconic Giant’s Causeway, before we  return to Dublin city.

Here are our 2018 Wild West Atlantic Way Tour dates:

  • May 1 – May 10
  • June 7 – June 16
  • July 10 – July 19
  • August 14 – August 23
  • September 5 – September 14

Click here for all of our 2018 tour dates! Please contact us for details about this fabulous new tour!

 

Hello all! Hope you’re enjoying your July thus far. I know it’s early, but it never hurts to start the month off strong & positive.

As an Irish-American company; Wild West Irish Tours has roots in different places – Virginia, Ireland, and the many areas of the world our adventurers come from to join us on our quests (just this year we had Canadian, UK, and Australian visitors!). In celebrating a legacy of independence and immigration this past 4th of July, we thought it might be nice to discuss what the journey means to those who go to Ireland not out of lineage or genealogy, but from the perspective of an “outsider” – though nobody is really an outsider if they’re traveling with us.

Many of our visitors have come to Ireland to experience the history; folklore, traditions, culture, and beauty of the region. There really is no place like Ireland; and no people like Eire’s own. And, as we have highlighted before, the friendliness and openness of the Irish are but a few of their many positive traits – no one ends up feeling left out, and the welcoming atmosphere is pleasantly continuous.

 

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Randy & David Kurjan

Often, our guests leave a distinct impression on us – David and Randy Kurjan; Wild Westies from the South Carolina area, are but a few. Not necessarily Irish themselves; they possess a deep love and enthusiasm for Ireland that propelled them to explore it with us! Randy was kind enough to answer a few of our probing questions about her experience – from how her husband David got to see where his favorite film, The Quiet Man, took place, to Randy’s personal feelings regarding the overall journey.

“David and I never felt like outsiders when we were in Ireland!” exclaims Randy. “It was, in an odd way, like coming home. The closest we have ever come to that feeling was when we went to Israel (we are Jewish).” Many have described visiting Ireland as a “homecoming” feeling – but it seems even those without personal ties to Ireland in the familial sense can find that feeling as well.

“Even though we are not even the tiniest bit Irish (though we are ‘wannabes’ in terms of ancestry),” Randy says, “it just felt right. We  were beautifully cared for by so many kind people, from Michael [Waugh], to our hosts at the B&Bs, to shopkeepers why took the time to chat, to the lovely person at the farm market stand who went home to get an alarm clock for one of our group who had forgotten theirs back in the States, couldn’t find one in a local store and wanted to get up in time for Church!”

When asked about what she enjoyed most about her trip, Randy found it difficult to pinpoint the best parts of her journey.

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Photograph by David Kurjan.

“It’s hard to decide my favorite aspects,” says Randy. “The beauty of the country, the warmth of the people, the great music, lyrical poetry and the fascinating history and culture… From start to finish, our experience was like a dream.” On why they wanted to go to Ireland, Randy states,

“We went to Ireland for several reasons. It was definitely a ‘bucket list’ item for my husband, David – one of his all time favorite movies is The Quiet Man, and he wanted to see Ireland, especially the locations shown in the movie.” She adds, “I’m a romantic, so for me, it was seeing the land that inspired the beautiful, lyrical poetry of Yeats and John O’Donohue. David is a photographer, by avocation, and wanted to capture the beauty of the Emerald Isle.”

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Photograph by David Kurjan

There was also a lot of pleasantries exchanged between the others on the tour: “We got to know our trip-mates,” Randy says. “We really bonded. Though we were all different, we just clicked. From then on, one experience was even better than the one before. The countryside was beautiful…just as we imagined! Green rolling hills; so many sheep and flowers. We also really loved all of our accommodations. Our hosts were so warm and hospitable – so many stories! Delicious food! Elderberry cordial one night in the parlor, scones and oatmeal for breakfast…I think I ate my weight in salmon and wonderful tea! We had so many adventures.”

 

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Photograph by David Kurjan.

Some of those adventures included learning “so much about Ireland-history, culture, geography and architecture”. “There were terrific guides and speakers to inform our experiences,” Randy remarks. “Our boat ride was exhilarating, the music got our feet tapping and the poetry touched our heart…The people we met along the way were so warm! I could go on and on…”

 

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Photograph by David Kurjan

And that’s what we always set out to do – whether you’re redheaded and freckly with lineage through one of Ireland’s many clans, or just a visitor who’s interested in migrating to a foreign world of fantastical stories and rolling countryside, there is a place for you with us at Wild West Irish Tours, and a place for you in Ireland besides.

 

  In conclusion: no, you don’t have to have any direct ties to Ireland to seek her out. It’s as simple as enjoying her films; her poetry, her people, and majesty. It’s the pilgrim soul; the desire to travel, and the enthusiasm to get you there.

                In regards to whether or not she’d go back, Randy was quick to say “absolutely – in a heartbeat.”

                           Follow your hearts to a homecoming in Ireland – all are welcome without question.

Until next time, be well!

-Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours Chief Scribe

                Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, we invite you to take a break from your daily lives to stop and admire the Roses…

From when she was a wildflower in the rolling hills of Western Ireland, to her blossoming as the Mayo Rose; we at Wild West Irish Tours have enjoyed watching Sandra Ganley (and her sister Laura) grow. We are pleased to announce our sponsorship of Sandra’s journey to Tralee in the hopes she will take home the crown; as she quite possibly best exemplifies what it means to be the Rose of Tralee.

We are, as you might’ve guessed, huge supporters of Irish-Americanism, and thus we believe the Rose of Tralee competition [a staple in bringing people of Irish descent together across the world] is both traditional and an exceptional opportunity for young ladies looking to make a difference in a niche area: celebrating Irish heritage and promoting the cultural poise, elegance, and energy of Celtic upbringing – all things Sandra embodies tenfold.

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The gang’s all here – Sandra, Michael, Trish, and Laura!

It is our intention to endorse Sandra in her journey and help her accomplish her dreams. From when she was just a sprout (and our tours in but their second year), we had the privilege of watching Sandra and Laura perform their traditional dances to a house band at the Michael Coleman Center in Sligo. It was an absolute smash-hit with those on our tour – and us. We became friends with the family; best-described as the “dream family” of rural Ireland – from their friendliness to their simple greatness in their ability to forge connections with the community. Sandra has picked up on their teachings and has, in turn, given back to the community with charitable focus. She is also a dance instructor (with her own studio; Jiving Juniors!), primary school teacher, and a tremendous supporter of the Irish language.

 

Back to our connection: after performing for a few of our in-Ireland tour events, the Ganley sisters were asked to come to America by Wild West Irish Tours. They obliged; and flew in with their parents to fill our world with homage to Celtic tradition in the homiest of ways. Performances on the tour and conversations with the lively sisters sealed the deal: they became like family to us; as did their parents.

With this history between us in mind, we will be moving forward to ensure Sandra has all she needs in her successful future regarding the Rose of Tralee competition. We believe she has the gumption and the generous spirit to achieve whatever she sets her mind to – Sandra Ganley exudes beauty, inside and out, which is what this competition truly is about.

Sandra was kind enough to make time in her busy schedule to talk about her journey thus far!

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Sandra and Michael taking a stroll in the Wild West of Ireland

WWIT: When did you first realize you wanted to pursue the Rose competition(s)?

Sandra: I suppose growing up in Ireland; everyone watches it on television. Looking at these amazing women; every young girl loved it. There’s a picture of me when I was about eight; dressed as the Rose of Tralee. They dressed me up in a dress and made me a sash with Rose of Tralee on it. I was always aware of it. When I was 18/19; around here ,there’s a lot of local competitions. The same kind of layout as the Rose of Tralee, all the girls get up on stage and do their piece. Curry Castle, Coleman Queen. I was quite young – when I have my degree and am more established in the world, maybe I’d pursue it. Will I or won’t I? No, I will!

WWIT: How would you describe the experience so far?

Sandra: It’s been absolutely surreal. Mayo was a great day – there were 19 of us. I loved meeting all the girls. Since I was crowned [it’s been about two months] – it’s been crazy, it hasn’t hit me fully yet. It won’t till I get to Tralee, I think.

WWIT: Enjoying the journey so far?

Sandra: It’s brilliant – I get to visit so many places and do things I haven’t got to do before. Meeting the many Irish Roses is great. To actually be in the midst of it all is surreal and overwhelming (in a good way)! I get to visit the local primary schools; nursing homes to visit the older people…I’ve been supporting local charities – on a larger scale, I got to have afternoon tea in Ashford Castle with the Galway Rose. That was something special. I also get to visit other places in Mayo [quite a big county] that I haven’t visited before.

WWIT: Excellent! Also – you mentioned charity work?

Sandra: Yes! Two charities/organizations – the Celiac Society and Mayo Mental Health Association. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before. Both are important to me, as mental health support needs more awareness and I myself am Celiac.

WWIT: Who or what would you say has been your biggest inspiration so far?:

Sandra: Maria Walsh Rose of Tralee winner – three years ago; the Philadelphia Rose from Mayo. She did so much for Mayo – and she was the first Rose who came out as gay. She was not stereotypical – she had tattoos; short hair. She’s been an inspiration to ALL the Roses. She is likewise a great ambassador. I hope I get to meet her over the next year – I think she’s brilliant in what she does! It’s also been lovely to connect with all the Roses this year. For example; we have the first Hong Kong Rose this year – and we have a group chat to know everybody’s county; area, state, & so on. We still have to remember what county they represent in Ireland – the Sydney Rose, for example, is from Kerry. There’s 65 escorts to remember and 170 in total to recall.

WWIT: It’s a little bit like exams, isn’t it.

Sandra: [Laughing] Yes, I suppose it is, yes.

WWIT: That’s awesome. Here’s the big question: would you do if you won?

Sandra: That IS a big question, goodness. I suppose continuing on with everything I’ve done so far, in terms of charity work, but on a bigger scale would be my focus. Not just local areas, but visiting all over Ireland and Irish communities abroad. I’d try to visit as many as possible. As you know, I’m quite big into Irish music and dance, so getting to spread that in other places would be a part of it. As for prize money: I think I’d start by giving a few bob back to mom & dad.

WWIT: You’re so thoughtful! Our final question: how would you describe your relationship with WWIT?

Sandra: Well, it’s been…five-ish years now; from the day Michael (and Trish) saw us dancing in Sligo, he straight away was so supportive of us. He was up talking to us right after we performed. For the first year or two he’d come to all our shows with his tours. He used to bring us presents from America. Then he offered to bring us over and we were so honored. We’ve now been [to America] three times! The support and publicity/gigs they’ve brought us is amazing. We got to dance with Cherish the Ladies, which was also so surreal. They’ve been so good to us (on behalf of myself and Laura). We’re always happy to promote them back. We’re filming a new promo with Michael [now filmed; stay tuned]! We like to help them as much as they help us. It’s been a great relationship. It’s still just worked out perfectly. And I’m delighted they’ve offered to sponsor me. The money will go toward dresses and to travel down to Tralee, which is majorly helpful. And I’m absolutely delighted to be a Wild Westie.

WWIT: Thanks Sandra!

 Please follow Sandra’s journey to Tralee here to show your support!

We have just one more surprise in store for all of you [Sandra included; perhaps]! We at Wild West Irish Tours will be launching a BRAND NEW Wild West Atlantic Way Tour as part of our Rose of Tralee initiative in Sandra’s honor – look out, County Mayo, we’re coming your way!

Until next time,

– Sam Fishkind