MLK Dream Big Parade
Published 4:10 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2018
I have found that some of the most enjoyable, unexpected events in my life have occurred when I am traveling. Mary Lou and I spent the past few days in Saint Petersburg, Florida attending a meeting. Following breakfast on Monday, and with no plans for the day, we accidentally wandered into the intersection that was the starting point for the nation’s longest running parade honoring Dr. Martin Luther King.
Saint Petersburg’s MLK Dream Big Parade has been held continuously on the holiday honoring Dr. King for the past 33 years. This year’s parade was especially significant because it marked the 50th anniversary his death.
Having only arrived the night before, we had no knowledge of the parade, its route, who was participating or even when it started. We walked by two college bands from Alabama and in talking with a couple of the members we decided to find a place to watch. The parade lasted for a full two hours.
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There were bands from several states, numerous high school and middle school bands, and more dance groups than you could count. The county and numerous cities in the area had floats and fire trucks lined up for the crowd. We saw the latest and greatest equipment from the fire and police departments, along with a clean and spiffy garbage truck.
Senator Bill Nelson, Congressman Charlie Christ, and numerous state and local politicians were waving and shaking hands. Mardi Gras type necklaces were handed out by the thousands in every color imaginable.
Not only were there color guards proudly carrying the American Flag there were also several posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Shiners and Motorcycle Clubs present. Of course, no parade is complete without plenty of horses.
There were numerous churches of many faiths with floats, music and many young people walking the long route. These included the denominations you might expect along with an Islam group, Episcopalians, Jews, and Quakers.
Being along the bay, I guess I should not have been surprised to see two rather large boats, including one dedicated to helping at risk kids experience a world offshore.
One favorite of the crowd was a float making snow cones in a variety of flavors. Volunteers were walking along the float and passing the cones out even though it was a bit chilly.
An unexpected entry was a commercial float for a bail bond company, with people walking wearing inmate uniforms. Another unlikely float was for a lawyer like the Alexander Shunnarah billboards you see scattered across the state.
I wonder what Dr. King would think today about all the fuss. I tend to think he would not like the hero like worship, but he would be happy to see so many groups focusing on lifting up the children in the community.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration is a day to celebrate the life and dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. On a chilly beautiful day for 2 hours in downtown Saint Petersburg, tens of thousands of people of all races, religions, classes, and stations in life put aside their differences and joined in a spirit of togetherness.
I was honored to be there and I think Dr. King would have been proud.