Belfast Telegraph

Twelfth: 'Even better than Christmas'... smiles and colour on Belfast route

Bandsmen young and old took part (Brian Lawless/PA)
Bandsmen young and old took part (Brian Lawless/PA)
Gizmo the dog joins in the fun
Neil Cairns (37) with sons Harley (5) and Leo (3)
Julie Tumilson (50) with son Jason (21) and his girlfriend Clarice Charlotte
John Wilson (33) and son Dylan Wilson (3)
Jayne Corry (45) with daughter Lexie (5), son Ben and family friend, Eleanor Baird (63)
Leila McKitterick twirls her baton
Edward Vaughan (54) with granddaughters, Chloe (2) and Holly (5), and daughter, Jane (29)
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

'This is better than Christmas. Even if it rains, it won't take away from the day.'

So said one of the many thousands of revellers who stepped out in style for the ultimate Orangefest extravaganza.

And there is nowhere quite like the Belfast field on the glorious Twelfth, where the only thing missing was sunshine.

Pictures from every venue - Ardoyne - Belfast - Rathfriland - Tandragee - Ballyronan - Holywood - Augher - Ahoghill and Portglenone - Lisnaskea - Pomeroy - Crossgar - Ballymena - Glenavy - Carnlough - Coleraine - Ballymoney

For hundreds of energetic Orangemen, led by around 60 bands, the council park at Barnett Demense was the end goal.

By the time the last of the parade snaked into the grounds close to Malone House in the south of the city around 2pm, the rain had all but abandoned its efforts to break through.

Union flag-waving supporters lined sections of the route of Northern Ireland's longest parade - stretching to six miles - to cheer the marchers on, and the rewards in the demonstration field were great.

It was 3pm before the County officers, sitting on their platform, began their religious ceremony, but the real business of the day certainly appeared to be taking place elsewhere.

Serious queues formed at the burger vans and in front of the stalls selling all kinds of memorabilia, mostly coloured red, white and blue, not to mention the many marquees dotted around the field.

Portaloos had been provided, but there was some bustling in the bushes, which also seemed to be accommodating bursting bladders, while weary bandsmen stripped off socks and shoes to walk barefoot on grassy verges.

John Wilson (33) and his three-year-old son, Dylan, had come from Saintfield for the day.

"It's Dylan's first time here," his father said. "We're looking forward to watching the bands arrive."

Shankill native Chantelle Smith (12) was helping out at her sister's stall, while her nephew, James Johnston (seven), was showcasing a new hairstyle that he had dyed red, white and blue ahead of the celebrations.

"It's great fun. There's so much for us to do," said James.

Lisburn grandfather Edward Vaughan (54) was at Barnett Demense with his extended family, including daughter, Jayne (29), and granddaughters, Holly (five) and Chloe (two).

"I come here every single year," Mr Vaughan said. "It's a colourful event, everyone is always smiling. It's a great atmosphere, especially for the kids!"

Belfast mother-of-two Lisa McKitterick (40) was enjoying the fun with her son, Harvey, who is ten, and her one-year-old daughter, Leila.

"We normally go to Lisburn Road, but we decided to come here this year instead because we've heard so many good things about it," she said.

Harvey added: "I love meeting up with my friends on the Twelfth. We always have a good laugh and my favourite thing is taking lots of photographs."

East Belfast cleaner Julie Tumilson (50) was picnicking under a tree with her sales rep son, Jason (21), and his 19-year-old girlfriend, Clarice Charlotte, who works in retail.

"We've been coming here every year since Jason was a baby," Mrs Tumilson said. "My mum brought me to the Twelfth when I was a kid. I have four children and I've always brought them every year. It's a long-standing family tradition.

"This is better than Christmas. I love the uniforms, especially the new ones, as they look so smart. Even if it rains, it won't take away from the day!"

Meanwhile, Jason said he was there on the sidelines solely to cheer on his dad from LOL 428, who belongs to Pride of the Hill Carnmoney flute band. "I'll be waving to him when he goes past, while we enjoy a few beverages and relax," Jason said.

Finaghy mum-of-two Jayne Corry (45) was taking in the atmosphere from her deckchair alongside her five-year-old daughter, Lexie, son Ben (12) and family friend, Eleanor Baird (63).

"I come here every year for the Twelfth and I like it when there's no trouble," she said. "There's plenty for the kids to do and if they're happy, I'm happy."

Glengormley joiner Neil Cairns, whose parents were running a chip van, said his boys, Harley (five) and Leo (three), love the Twelfth.

"We've been coming here our whole lives and we really love it," Mr Cairns said. "It's good laugh and my sons enjoy it. It's a real happy family day out."

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