Town ‘top of the world’ for Twelfth

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson (centre), presents senior Portadown Orangemen with a special flag to mark the tourist flagship status for this year's Co Armagh Twelfth of July parade. Pictured (L-R) are David Jones; Darryl Hewitt, District Master; Alan Burns and Cecil Allen
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson (centre), presents senior Portadown Orangemen with a special flag to mark the tourist flagship status for this year's Co Armagh Twelfth of July parade. Pictured (L-R) are David Jones; Darryl Hewitt, District Master; Alan Burns and Cecil Allen

Portadown has been selected as a flagship Twelfth demonstration this year - with organisers predicting it will be the largest anywhere in the world.

The town is one of two venues to have been selected as tourist flagships for the biggest annual festival in Northern Ireland - with Kilkeel hosting the other.

The parades in Portadown and Kilkeel will provide an enhanced cultural experience this year, the Orange Institution has said.

The host district will offer a varied programme of events surrounding the Twelfth, as well as the colour and pageantry associated with the largest day in the parading calendar.

A total of 18 demonstrations are planned across the Province on Tuesday, July 12.

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, congratulated the organisers of the respective Portadown and Kilkeel parades on achieving tourist flagship status.

He said: “Both venues are worthy ambassadors as Twelfth tourist flagships and we are delighted that they will be working closely with us this year to ensure equally successful events.

“The flagship programme, which has been constantly evolving for over 10 years, has been an enormous success and has helped to develop the potential of and broaden the appeal of our parades.

“The Twelfths in Portadown and Kilkeel promise to be special occasions, with huge crowds enjoying the spectacle of the largest parade in the world in Co Armagh, and also the pageantry and colour of the day in south Down, amid the stunning backdrop of the Mourne Mountains.

“The organisers of both parades are working on a programme of events leading up to the big day and there will be plenty for people to see and enjoy. As part of our cultural tourism offering, visitors will also be welcomed to each of the parades by fully accredited welcome hosts.”

He added: “The Twelfth of July offers a unique opportunity for the Orange Institution and the bands community to showcase our culture and heritage, and we are confident of welcoming increasing numbers of visitors, tourists and families to all of our demonstrations across Northern Ireland.”

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: “The tourism industry in Northern Ireland is hugely significant as both an economic driver and in supporting and creating employment. It has been recognised that cultural tourism has an important role to play in helping visitors select their short break and holiday destination.

“Increasingly we are seeing more and more international visitors coming to Northern Ireland keen to experience the biggest day in the loyal orders’ parading calendar on the Twelfth of July.

“I welcome the announcement by the Orange Institution that Portadown and Kilkeel have been named as this year’s Twelfth tourist flagships. With a programme of events alongside the traditional demonstration the flagship programme offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the culture, music and pageantry of the day.”

Portadown District Master Darryl Hewitt said: “We consider it a great honour to have been awarded flagship status. The Twelfth in Portadown will be the largest gathering anywhere in the world and we look forward to welcoming the thousands of Orangemen, Orangewomen, Juniors, bandsmen and spectators to what we believe will be a truly memorable occasion. Co Armagh demonstrations are always very much family orientated and Portadown District is seeking to build on this.”