A relaxed family friendly atmosphere combined with extensive outreach work resulted in up to 15,000 people turning out for the Fermanagh Twelfth celebrations in Brookeborough, the Orange Order said.
Stuart Brooker, County Grand Master, said it had been “a wonderful day”.
“There has been a great spread of visitors from all over the Province.”
He estimated that upwards of 15,000 attended the event, the first main demonstration in the town since 2010.
The reason for the expansive crowds, he said, was that Fermanagh “always has a great family friendly Twelfth and a very relaxed family atmosphere”.
Spectators were four to six people deep along the entire parade route.
“Part of the reason has been that the Orange Order has been reaching out to the wider community, not just in Fermanagh.
“There is a great positivity. It is widely recognised that we have taken the front position in community life in Fermanagh and moving forward that seems to spin off into better attendances.
“Turnout for the Fermanagh Twelfth appears to be growing year on year.”
A smiling DUP leader Arlene Foster, who is from Fermanagh, attended the celebrations and had colourful photographs taken with children attending the event.
Over 90 private lodges took part along with members of the Association of Loyal Orangewomen, Juniors, and approximately 70 bands, in one of the larger demonstrations across the Province.
Victor Warrington, past District Master of Brookeborough and a UUP councillor, described the attendance as “unreal”.
“It is one of the biggest Twelfths I have seen in a long time,” he said. “The main street of Brookeborough itself was thronged. I think people knew the weather was going to be good today.”
One reason for the large turnout, he said, was the good communications and central position in the county, located just off the main A4 from Enniskillen to Dungannon.
Orangemen from as far afield as Cavan, Leitrim, Monaghan and Donegal travelled to Fermanagh to take part in the parade.
“The bands had very good numbers and looked and sounded excellent. They had lots of young members, which is saying a lot in this day and age when there are so many other attractions to draw them away.
“The Order itself has made a determined recruitment strategy among youth in recent years by starting up to five junior lodges in the county.”
Two lodges, Rosslea LOL 173 and Crom Castle LOL 1219, both had new banners on parade.
Former UUP MP Tom Elliot explained some background to the new banner from the Crom Castle lodge.
The castle has special historical links to the Battle of the Boyne and the Crichton family, he noted,
“Lord Crichton was a former Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in the 19th Century.
“A lodge continues to meet in the Castle itself and even until this day many family members of staff from Crom make up the membership.”
The banner itself was recently dedicated in a ceremony overlooking Lough Erne by Rev Alan Irwin.
Former master of the lodge Noel Johnston passed away two years ago, with his two sons continuing to play a significant role in the lodge, Mr Elliott added.
The guest speaker at Brookeborough was Rev Dr Alan McCann, County Armagh Grand Chaplain, and a collection was taken for the South East Fermanagh Foundation.
The demonstration took place following the recent opening of a special exhibition at the Enniskillen Castle museum, highlighting the county’s Orange heritage.
‘From Grey to Orange: The Story of Fermanagh Orangeism’ focuses on the origins of Orangeism in the county, and local personalities.
It runs until September 2.