THE Sham fight at Scarva is one of the biggest cultural events in the Northern Ireland calendar and 100,000 people are expected in the on Friday, July 13.
The annual clash between King William and King James and the massive procession through the beautiful village is now firmly established as a major tourist attraction.
Senior representatives from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Tourism Ireland attended the event last year to see the spectacle for themselves.
The Sham Fight is organised by the Royal Black Institution, who carried out a survey at the event in 2011. A team of 15 researchers interviewed 559 people who were spectators along different parts of the parade route.
The Sovereign Grand Master, Millar Farr, said the survey had given the Royal Black Institution a lot of valuable information.
“We know the crowd at Scarva is huge but we had no real evidence where everyone came from and what they thought of the event. We decided to commission a survey and the results were fascinating.
“For the first time ever we now have a very real idea of where the spectators come from, how they get to Scarva and what they think of the whole day. We got information about the parade itself and other important issues such as parking, refreshments and even toilet provision.
“All of this built up a detailed picture of the whole day at Scarva, from the spectators’ point of view. We have been able to make a number of minor changes to make the experience even more enjoyable.
“We were delighted that 97% of those interviewed last year, said they would come back in 2012. There can’t be many big events which get such an approval rating as that.”
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said: “This year offers unprecedented opportunities for tourism and, along with the three flagship Twelfth of July parades in Enniskillen, Carrickfergus and Ballynahinch, the Scarva Sham fight is another important part of our ni2012 offering.
“With 100,000 people expected to attend, this unique spectacle is the single largest one-day tourism event in Northern Ireland and it really has put the beautiful village of Scarva on the map. The Royal Black Institution have put together an excellent family-friendly event, which gives tourists from home and abroad an insight into the culture and history of Northern Ireland and I have no doubt that its visitor numbers will continue to grow.”
On Friday, July 13, the procession leaves the assembly field on the Gilford Road at 11.15am. Eighty Preceptories of the Royal Black Institution will take part in the procession, joined by a wide range of bands to suit all tastes. Tens of thousands of people will line the one mile route to the Demesne at the Loughbrickland end of the village. Roughan Silver Band will lead the procession.
Earlier in the day, at 9.45AM, members of Scarva Royal Black Preceptory will lay a wreath at the village memorial to local members of the security forces who were murdered in the Troubles.
The Sham Fight is a unique event on the Northern Ireland calendar and has been taking place in Scarva for a very long time. The Parliamentary Select Committee of 1835 refers to July the previous year and reports that Orangemen had marched to Scarva and used the canal as a representation of the Boyne Water and that the ‘opposing armies’ consisted of about 50 apiece.