Parades Commission gives NI’s first post-Covid tractor runs the green light

Two group of enthusiasts have got together to pull off Northern Ireland’s first official tractor runs post-lockdown.

Taking place this afternoon (Sunday, July 19), the tractor run marks the first stand-alone event to take place since Covid-19 measures were first brought in in March.

It comes just days after Mourne Valley Cultural Association ventured out as part of this year’s Twelfth celebrations in Newtownstewart, Co. Tyrone.

The Ards Peninsula Tractor Run will include a 16-mile route around the scenic villages of the island’s most easterly point.

Starting at 2:00pm from Millisle Main Street, the run takes participants past the famous Ballycopeland Windmill and Mount Stewart Estate, finishing an hour and a half later back in the seaside village.

Organisers have made some changes to the event to ensure it minimises any coronavirus risks. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, there will be no catering afterwards.

Organisers are keen to stress all taking part must respect social distancing rules.

“There will be signs in place to remind everyone to do their bit for social distancing. We don’t want crowds standing around, and everyone is asked to stay at their machines,” a spokesman said.

“We are appealing to everyone’s good everyone – we really don’t want to see another outbreak after this.”

‘4 or 5 people locally owe their lives to the air ambulance’

All proceeds from the event will go to Air Ambulance NI – a cause which has helped several farming families locally.

“There are four or five people living down the peninsula who owe their lives to the air ambulance. It’s something everyone can support because you never know when you will need it yourself,” the spokesman explained.

“We set the minimum donation at £20 for this one because it’s possible it could be the only run taking place in the area this year.

Normally at this time of the year, there would be a run on every weekend and we happily pay to take part in those every week so we thought we would set the minimum donation accordingly.

Participants must pay on the day in the car park, with volunteers from Air Ambulance NI to collect the money. Spectators can donate here on the run’s JustGiving page.

Where to look out for the run

While the group have asked crowds not to gather, if you are lucky enough to be in the area this afternoon, you can expect to catch a glimpse of the procession in the following areas:

  • Ballywalter Road Milllise;
  • Millisle Main Street;
  • Donaghadee Road;
  • Ballyvester Road;
  • Killaughey Road;
  • Windmill Road;
  • Moss Road;
  • Ballyblack Road East;
  • Crossnamuckley Road;
  • Ballyblack Road;
  • Ballycastle Road;
  • Mountstewart Road;
  • Manse Road;
  • Main Street, Carrowdore;
  • New Road;
  • Killbrigght Road North;
  • Drumfad Road;
  • Ballywalter Road, Millisle.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include reference to Mourne Valley Cultural Association’s tractor run on July 13.