Major efforts have been made to establish this year’s Twelfth celebrations as the most family friendly to date.
In a bid to move the image of the marching season away from the “dark days of the Troubles” and develop a carnival atmosphere, the Orange Order has worked closely with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Tourism Ireland to attract more visitors to the province.
Up to 500,000 people are expected to be involved in or watch the 18 main parades — including five flagship parades — across Northern Ireland on July 12.
And in a further bid to create a festival feel, shops in Belfast city centre will be open to the public for the Twelfth celebrations.
Orangefest — the Orange Order initiative to promote the parades as an all-inclusive carnival — has for three years worked through the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast and Belfast City Centre Management in partnership with Belfast City Council and the PSNI.
The shops will open at around 12.30pm when the Orange parade has passed through the city centre and is on its way to the demonstration field at Barnett’s Demesne.
They will close around 4.30pm.
There will also be a clampdown on street drinking and a ‘zero tolerance’ approach at many demonstrations.
Councillor William Humphrey, deputy chairman of Orangefest, said: “The Twelfth is now a major tourist attraction in the Northern Ireland calendar.
“We know that as well as local people there are many others who time their visits to the province to coincide with the celebrations.
“The County Grand Lodge of Belfast through Orangefest have been extremely successful in enhancing the family-friendly atmosphere of the Twelfth following the dark days of the Troubles.”
The chairman of Orangefest, George Chittick, said: “We will be working closely with all agencies to ensure the Belfast Twelfth is a very special and enjoyable day for everyone.”
The Orange Order director of services, Dr David Hume, said the Order believes it has a major role to play in boosting the tourism.
“Cultural tourism is a growing industry and we are determined that the Orange Order will play its part in developing this sector of business,” he said.
“The idea behind the Flagship Twelfths is to look at the demonstrations through the eyes of tourists.
“They will be professionally run events, organised to a high standard.”
The Orange Order’s five flagship demonstrations are at Hillsborough, Portrush, Cookstown, Newtownstewart and Antrim. The Independent Loyal Orange Institution will hold a demonstration in Armoy.
Ulster on the march... where the main parades will be
ROSSNOWLAGH – JULY 10
The parade begins near St John’s Parish Church at 12.30pm.
ANTRIM– FLAGSHIP TWELFTH
The parade will move off from Fountain Hill at 11am.
HILLSBOROUGH – FLAGSHIP TWELFTH
The parade assembles opposite Newport Primary School at 11.30am.
PORTRUSH – FLAGSHIP TWELFTH
The main parade starts at 11.30am.
COOKSTOWN – FLAGSHIP TWELFTH
The parade will leave the |Assembly Field on Grange Road at 12.30pm.
NEWTOWNSTEWART – FLAGSHIP TWELFTH
The parade will begin at 12.30pm, setting off from|Strabane Road.
The parade assembles near the Orange Hall at Murray Street and moves off at noon.
The parade will start in the assembly field on the Dunkirk Road and leave at noon.
The main county parade will start at Russell Drive/Mourne Road at 8.15am.
The parade will leave Belfast Orange Hall, at Carlisle Circus, at 10am and make its way to Belfast City Hall.
The lodges will assemble on the Warren Road at 12.30pm.
The parade begins on Castlecatt Road at 1pm.
The parade starts at midday on the Tullymore Road.
The parade begins at 12.30pm from the main Ballymena to Ahoghill Road.
The parade will gather on the Fort Road at 10am.
The parade will start on the Old Omagh Road at 12.30pm.
Lodges will assemble at Gola on the Lisnaskea Road in Brookeborough and will move off at 12.30pm via Main Street.
The parade will assemble at the Playing Fields on the Bog Road at 12.15pm.
The 15 lodges will assemble at Leestone Road, on the Annalong-Kilkeel Road, at midday.
The parade begins at 1pm from Grace Hill Road.