AS the sun shone over Comber on the 12th July during the celebration of the 321st anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, Orangemen were out in force enjoying their day.
This year the tourist flagship project has continued to make strides forward and the atmosphere at the parade was more akin to cultural tourism than that of years gone by. It was a family day and in the field the entertainments for the children kept them well amused, and there was a range of food mobiles and other stalls providing a range of services.
Brian Hunter, a main organiser on the day in the field in Comber, said, “This is amazing. We have never seen a bigger crowd that this in Comber. People have really come out and supported this event. There are 65 lodges marching and over 40 bands. They come from different districts of Saintfield, Castlewellan, Comber , Ballynahinch and Lecale.
“The Orange Order is very keen to promote the whole idea of tourism around the Twelfth parades and it looks like it’s working today.” The Northern Ireland Tourist Board has been assisting the Orange Order to help develop the tourist image and package and it is early days yet in this development.”
People have traveled from across the world to be at this event and Down News chatted to the Green family from Dromara. Robert Green has just come back from Australia and had been looking forward to the Twelfth in Comber with the rest of his family. And there were others from Scotland and England present too.
Over 500,000 people take part and watch the Twelfth parades in Northern Ireland and this is by far the biggest public event. As political and civil stability increases, more visitors are planning their holidays to coincide with the Twelfth week. Unionism is trying to reinvent itself and as we enter the second stable Assembly period where anything may happen and probably will, we are now entering a Brave New World where old attitudes and behaviours are slowly changing. However, the current violence in Belfast will do nothing to improve community relations or add to future prosperity.
You can view 100 photographs of the Twelfth in Comber on Down News Facebook, and on the Flickr Gallery.