ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - Thousands of people gathered in St. Petersburg Monday to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during one of the largest and longest-running parades in the U.S.
According to organizers, the annual Martin Luther King Drum Major for Justice Parade draws about 100,000 people to the city, lining the parade route and the 31st annual version of the event was no different.
"We will always make this pilgrimage to this Mecca, St. Petersburg, so we can demonstrate to America that there's a unanimity of people of all derivations, races and cultures that will continue to say, 'we will never forget the name, Martin Luther King Jr,'" said Seville Brown, who helps run the parade every year.
Since 1983, the third Monday of January is spent commemorating the life of one of the great pioneers of the Civil Rights movement.
The event in St. Pete started in 1985 and grew steadily over the years. It now features about 8,500 participants, while being the inspiration for other parades across the country.
"On Central Avenue, that once divided the races in this city you can see that America is saying, 'we're coming together because this demonstrates progress," Brown said.
For many, the parade has become more than a celebration.
"I try to follow in the footsteps of greatness," said Dedrick Woodard, who has attended the parade for decades. "I'm thankful for this day. I'm thankful for this opportunity to get with a bunch of wonderful people in my community to be able to come together. Like Martin Luther King said, 'come together and show that we're a family and we're a community.'"
"To see St. Pete and the people of all cultures come together, it is absolutely fantastic," added Don Nicholson, who has come with his daughter to the event for 12 years. "I teach her to live right and to always be respectful and to embrace every culture and every background."
Brown said the event is named "Drum Major for Justice" because Dr. King was a drum major at his high school in Atlanta. One of his last speeches also urged peopleto have a "drum major instinct," and lead through service and love.