ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - The Martin Luther King Dream Big Parade in St. Petersburg in one of the largest and longest-running celebrations of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the U.S.
According to organizers, the parade typically draws about 100,000 people to the city and the 34th annual version of the event was no different. This year's parade included about 150 floats, bands, and participants, which is more than ever.
"The parade to me is everything because I grew up in the south in Alabama in the early 50s and 60s and I was right there when Martin Luther King made his speech and marched across the Edmund Pettus [Bridge] in Selma, Alabama," said Mary Bogans, who now lives in St. Pete. "I'm happy now that we are here together as one, enjoying the parade. Hallelujah!"
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 has grown steadily over the years.
"It definitely has inclusiveness and diversity," said Toriano Parker, an organizer with Advantage Village Academy. "It kind of takes all of the core values of acceptance of people."
For many, the parade has become more than a celebration.
"He built bridges. I wouldn't be in the position that I am now had it not been for people like Martin Luther King who fought so hard to ensure that justice was done, not only for African Americans but for all people," said Donnie Williams, a parade participant with the Nite Riders Van Club. "He wanted people of all races to come together and be one and I think this is an opportunity for it to happen for the whole city, for the whole Tampa Bay area to come together in honor of Martin Luther King."
"MLK represents something for us. It's not just a day to be out of school, it's a day to enjoy the actual moment," added Eirica Tensley, a teacher at St. Petersburg High School. "I don't think a lot of kids understand how important this day is. I think that we should do more in school as far as telling what this day actually represents."
The original event was named "Drum Major for Justice" because Dr. King was a drum major at his high school in Atlanta, but was renamed in 2017. In one of his last speeches, he also urged people to have a "drum major instinct," and lead through service and love.