One of the biggest band parades of the ‘marching season’ will take place in Ballymena next month.
Ballykeel Loyal Sons of Ulster flute band will host their annual event on Saturday, May 21.
Bands will leave Wakehurst at 8.15pm and take the normal route around the town - Queen Street and then around the Waveney Road for approx. 8.25pm; Galgorm Road and onto Wellington Street for approximately 8.45pm.
The first band should be on Broughshane Street for 9pm continuing down Church Street and onto Harryville bridge to a finish in Harryville.
All local bands will lay wreaths at the Memorial Gardens as a mark of respect on the 100th year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Ballymena and district paid a heavy price during the 1914-1918 conflict with the losses at the Somme being particularly heavy.
Band chairman Rodney Quigley said: “Local band representatives will walk at the head of the parade and halt on Galgorm Street for a short wreath laying service to remember all those that made the ultimate sacrifice all those years ago and since to protect us from the evils of tyranny and terrorism.”
The Stephen Parkhill Memorial Cup, one of the most sought after awards on the parading circuit, will be presented to the best overall band of the night.
Rodney added: “This year’s competition will be a very tight affair for up to 70 bands. In line for top honours will be previous winners Dunloy Accordion, Omagh PB, Cookstown SOW and Pride of Ballinaran from Killkeel.
“The blood and thunder outfits will be keen to get their hands on the big prize also with Belfast rivals East Belfast PB, Gertrude Star, Shankill Star and Pride of the Shore along with Blackscull, Drumderg from Keady, Dunamoney and also Clougher who will make a welcome return for the first time in a few years. Only a few times per year does the cream of the blood section ever be on display at the same event and Ballymena should feel proud that May 21 is one of those dates.
“Some of the bands that have been raising eyebrows so far this season will be on display such as Skeogh from Dromore, Castlederg YL, Vow Ballymoney, Steeple Antrim alongside many more bands from across Ulster.
“Local outfits will be there in force and non-stronger than Galgorm’s own Pride of the Maine who have recently taken delivery of their stunning new tartan uniforms. Near neighbours Ahoghill SOW have gone through a regeneration, more youth has been added to the ranks and they are bedding in well.
“As always Sir George White and Pride of the Village Teenies from Broughshane will want to showcase their talents, both bands picking up great praise in recent weeks. Craigywarren have been working hard in recent years and have a very vibrant and energetic balance, one of the dependable bands that always work hard to get on the road.
“New faces this year will be the newly formed North Ballymena PB, learning as they go and they have had some very good comments of late, a stylish and well-rehearsed percussion section with a young and enthusiastic music end.
“We hope the crowds line the streets to welcome some of the best bands from around Ulster, we as a band work tirelessly to promote Ballymena everywhere we go and we hope that the spectators come out in force to show a great welcome to our visitors for the night. Ballykeel band works together with the local PSNI on the zero tolerance policy regarding on street drinking and this is made so much easier with the help of the Ballymena Bands Forum marshals, without whose help parades would be impossible to organise.”