Around 100 marching bands, including 3,000 musicians, are expected to take part in ‘the first Friday in June’ parade in Markethill.
The parade, which has been held on the same date since 1974, is organised by the Kilcluney Volunteers Flute Band.
According to News Letter columnist Quincey Dougan, a member of Kilcluney Volunteers for over 27 years, the Co Armagh parade is expected to attract crowds of 20,000.
Mr Dougan said Northern Ireland is “without doubt the home of the marching band, with in excess of 700 bands in operation within its shores – more bands per head of population than anywhere else in the world”.
He said “bands from every marching band genre” will be represented. Alongside blood and thunder bands, there will be melody flute, accordion, silver and pipe bands on display from every county in Northern Ireland.
Mr Dougan said the parade attracts visitors to local caravan parks, hotels, hostels and guest houses.
He added that ‘the first Friday in June’ parade “is now a part of the fabric of the local community”.
“Each May you can tell the parade in town is coming,” he said.
“Shops smarten up their signs and shop fronts, the houses give windows and doors a fresh lick of paint, and generally there is a positive and anticipative atmosphere around the town.”
He added that considerable work is required to organise the event where “planning literally begins the previous year when the last parade ends”.
Mr Dougan added that the evening is a prime example of why bands are important in Ulster communities.
“Marching bands are more than just an employee or a hobby,” he said. “Bands are ingrained into Irish society.
“The first Friday in June illustrates just why. The music, colour and atmosphere, while unique, is the rival of any carnival or festival and yet all organised free of charge by the community, in the community for the community.”
Anyone planning to attend the parade in Markethill is advised to park in the vicinity of the town as early as possible.
The procession will start at 7.30pm sharp, with no through traffic permitted from that time.
All visitors are asked to obey the instructions of the marshals, and Kilcluney Volunteers would remind all those travelling to the procession that the normal bylaws regarding alcohol consumption are in place and should be adhered too.