THE County Down Piping Festival always promises to be a competition with a difference, and last Saturday's event certainly lived up to that promise.
This year the section embarked on a project to include a concert type performance that runs alongside the main event of the pipe band and drum majors championships.
It featured the Red Hot Chilli Pipers from BBC TV fame and the Ulster Scots Experience together with local artists Mark Wilson and friends and the Clonkelt Highland dancers.
It was a day that had something for everyone and congratulations must go to the forward thinking once again of Mervyn Herron and his team in the Co. Down section of the Northern Ireland Branch.
The Co. Down pipe bands were in winning form on their own home ground taking the Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3A and Grade 3B titles.
Field Marshal Montgomery, in their first local outdoor competition of the year, fought off a strong challenge from St.Laurence O'Toole to win the overall first place in Grade 1, with the latter taking the awards for best drums and best bass section.
Sammy Connolly's Ravara Pipe Band had their second win of the season in Grade 2, with Annsborough in 3A and Drumlough in 3B retaining their unbeaten run this year by once again winning their grades in impressive style.
Killadeas from Enniskillen, a band who also are having a good start to the season, took the championship title in 4A, and Bready Ulster Scots from Co. Tyrone the 4B one.
The senior drum major title was won by Brian Wilson, with Ryan Ferry taking first place in the juvenile. Gary Scanlon won the junior title and Laura Abraham the novice drum major title.
The second of this year's five major championships will be the British, which will be held in Ballymena Showground's on Saturday June 23 commencing at 9am.
There are 122 pipe bands and 55 drum majors entered for this event. No doubt all the Ulster contingents will put up a strong challenge against all competition from Scotland.
Please note that the extra competition to take place in Newtownards on June 30 has been cancelled. The next event will be the 62nd All Ireland Championships on July 7. This year it is the turn of the Northern Ireland branch to host the event and it will take place in Newcastle Co. Down.
There will then be a one-week break for the holidays with the competitions re-commencing on Saturday July 21 with the North Down Pipe band Championships in Bangor.
Novice Drum Majors - 1st. Laura Abraham. 2nd. Victoria Catterson. 3rd. Rachel Caldwell. 4th. Bethan Martin. 5th. Zoe McDowell.
Junior - 1st. Gary Scanlon. 2nd. Lauren Muldrew. 3rd. Dale Fisher. 4th. Lorna Robinson. 5th. Lauren Hanna.
Juvenile - 1st. Ryan Ferry. 2nd. Linzi Hamilton. 3rd. Samantha Gordon. 4th. Emma Chambers. 5th.Caroline Clydesdale.
Senior - 1st. Brian Wilson. 2nd. Paula Braiden. 3rd. Ian Young. 4th. Kathy Megarry Calvin. 5th. David Brownlee.
Grade 4B Bands - 1st. Bready Ulster Scots. (plus best bass) 2nd. Moneygore. 3rd. Cleland Memorial. 4th. Wm.Kerr Memorial. (plus best drums).
Grade 4A - 1st. Killadeas. 2nd. Cullenfad. 3rd. Cullybackey. 4th. Gransha (plus best bass). Best Drums Syerla.
Grade 38 - 1st. Drumlough (also best drums, best bass and M&D) 2nd. Killen. 3rd. Raffrey. 4th. Sgt Walker Memorial.
Grade 3A - 1st. Annsborough. (plus best drums and best bass) 2nd. Arklow. 3rd. Cottown. 4th Aughintober. (plus M&D)
Grade 2 - 1st. Ravara. 2nd. Cullybackey. (plus best drums and best bass) 3rd. Killeen. 4th. Seven Towers.
Grade 1 - 1st. F.M.Montgomery. 2nd. St.Laurence O'Toole (also best drums and best bass) 3rd.Ballycoan. 4th. Ballinderry Bridge.