The North Antrim town of Ballymena hosted one of its most successful events of 2015 last Wednesday, the occasion being a band procession for the Craigywarren Flute.
The Craigywarren band have had a very productive few years, with the celebration of their 100th anniversary and a new uniform helping to push the band forward in their music and appearance.
Among the bands on display were the accordions of Dunloy, Milltown and Vow, each projecting a great presence with high but controlled volume.
On Friday night one of the main venues was also in North Antrim, this time for the Ballymaconnolly Sons of Conquerors Flute.
Notwithstanding difficult and challenging circumstances, 25 bands participated, with dozens more who would have wished to, unfortunately prevented by what many would regard as unnecessary and over-zealous restrictions.
Irrespective, a free flowing and highly disciplined procession of marching bands passed peacefully as always, including Benvarden, Cullybackey LOL Flute, Cullybackey Maine Defenders and Ballymoughan Purple Guards.
The Richard Lafferty Cup for best band on parade went to Dunloy, and the hosts are already working on next year’s procession and are determined to ensure efforts from others to divide the community are challenged.
Much further afield on Friday evening, the North Fermanagh village of Kesh held the fifth annual event for the aptly named North Fermanagh Young Defenders Flute.
The organisers used the evening to unveil their smart new uniforms, planned to be dedicated at a later stage, before 30 bands made their way along the short village parade route. A much remarked feature of the evening were the pipe bands of Tubrid and Tievemore near the start of the procession; while for sheer entertainment value the Castlederg Young Loyalists Auld Boys were hard to surpass. Welcome first time visitors were the Cowan Memorial Flute Sion Mills.
On Saturday night the Newbuildings Orange and Blue hosted over 20 bands in the Londonderry city suburb, while their namesakes the Lambeg Orange and Blue accommodated a very successful evening of 40 bands in Lisburn.
The Lambeg event as always attracted the best of the blood and thunder world to city, with a very close competition aspect seeing Gertrude Star and Sons of Ulster Shankill victors in the large and small blood and thunder categories respectively.
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