Even greater numbers than anticipated turned out to make Northern Ireland’s first ever Learning Disability Pride Parade a resounding success in Carrickfergus.
The carnival event, which was led by the inimitable May McFettridge, drew thousands to the town on Saturday afternoon, where, despite concerns to the contrary, the weather was relatively kind to participants who cut a colourful dash as they made their way along Marine Highway.
Spectators lined the route as more than 1,000 people with a learning disability from across Northern Ireland celebrated in style.
People took to social media following the spectacular event to call for it to be repeated and shared elsewhere.
One attendee posted: “Great idea let’s spread around the country.”
The PSNI, who were on duty, gave all those involved a huge thumbs up.
“We had an excellent day at the Learning Disability Pride Parade. The crowds far surpassed the expected numbers and the organisers did a brilliant job,” police stated.
Learning Disability Pride was organised by the Carrickfergus Senior Gateway Club and was the idea of club leader, Thomas Haighton. Speaking beforehand he said: “We want to raise awareness that learning disability does not have to stop someone achieving their full potential.”
Some members of participating organisations took to the stage at the castle car park to showcase their talent during the live entertainment slot hosted by DJ Pete Snodden.
The Pride entertainment bill featured live music from band This Way Up’, the Jordan Academy of Irish Dancers, the Studio 68 Cheerleaders, drama by Carrickfergus Senior Gateway and Larne Adult Centre and Carrick DJ Joe Hoey, who has a learning disability.
Meanwhile, comedian John Linehan, who plays May McFettridge, said it was “an honour to lead the very first Learning Disability Pride Parade”.
The programme also listed facepainting, kite making, a petting farm, bouncy castle, market and food stalls, arts and crafts and resources to help people with a learning disability and their families.
Learning Disability Pride was funded and supported by the Big Lottery Fund, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Mencap.
More photos from the event in this week’s Carrick Times and Larne Times, on sale Wednesday.