Ahoghill has clinched the top prize in the 60th anniversary year of the Northern Ireland Best Kept City, Town and Village Awards.
The village won the much-coveted ‘Best of the Best’ title at the awards ceremony, sponsored by George Best Belfast City Airport, with judges citing the evident enthusiasm of residents and traders working in tandem as a key factor in the success.
Ahoghill won the ‘Large Village’ category for the second year in a row, but went a step further this year to claim a first ‘overall’ accolade thanks to impressive special features such as the Community Garden and site of the Old Creamery.
Cullybackey was also highly commended at the prestigious awards event, taking runner-up spot in the ‘Large Village’ category behind its neighbour.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said: “Well done to all of those involved in this stellar competition and a huge congratulations to Ahoghill and Cullybackey.
“A lot of hard work went into making our Borough as attractive and stunning as it is and I thank all of the volunteers, local businesses and wider community for their efforts and civic pride.
“So much of Mid and East Antrim is awash with colour thanks to hanging baskets, window boxes, railing planters and traditional bedding plants.
“However, what strikes me the most is the fact that so much of the planting and environmental improvements throughout Mid and East Antrim are due to the efforts of local residents, businesses, churches, charity and community groups.
“It is down to partnerships working with the Council and is a credit to the people of Mid and East Antrim.”
Over 100 representatives from community organisations and local authorities gathered at the City Hall for the Best Kept Awards ceremony.
Organised by the NI Amenity Council, the initiative identifies and celebrates Northern Ireland’s best looked-after towns, villages, schools, health and social care facilities and housing areas.
Doreen Muskett, President of the NI Amenity Council and daughter of the late Professor Arthur Muskett OBE, who founded the initiative, said: “Ahoghill impressed our judges with a huge variety of floral decorations, with a lot of dedication and effort put into their maintenance.
“A number of areas in the village were sponsored by local businesses and it was a wonderful example of how business and community can work together.
“The Best Kept Awards initiative is a fantastic opportunity for cities, towns and villages across Northern Ireland to work with their local community to encourage residents, businesses and volunteers to have a practical and positive impact on their direct environment.
“Our 60th anniversary is a hugely significant milestone and we are extremely grateful to Belfast City Airport for its support in such an important year.”
Michelle Hatfield, Director of Human Resources and Corporate Responsibility at Belfast City Airport, said: “On behalf of George Best Belfast City Airport, I would like to congratulate Ahoghill and every city, town, village and housing area that has taken part in this year’s competition.
“The efforts have been incredible and it’s fantastic to hear about the direct impact that the volunteers have had on residents, businesses and the community at large.
“It is a pleasure for the airport to support the Best Kept Awards in its 60th anniversary year. At Belfast City Airport, we deliver an award-winning Community Commitment Plan which focuses on Community, Education, Environment and People.
“Over the last six decades, the initiative has played a huge role in engendering a sense of civic pride among communities across Northern Ireland. We want to support local communities as they strive to improve the environment and the lives of its people – core values which we share.”
The Best Kept City, Town, Village and Housing Area Awards is the final ceremony of the wider Northern Ireland Best Kept Awards initiative, which has already recognised schools and healthcare facilities.
First established in 1957, the competition has grown over the years and now includes 90 awards across a number of categories.
Derry/Londonderry won the Best Kept City prize, with Banbridge the winners in the Large Town category. Armagh claimed the Medium Town title, with Randalstown named the Best Kept Small Town and Castlecaulfield lifting the Small Village award.