By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday was Jan. 15, but organizations in Indian River County have been and will continue to celebrate his life and legacy throughout this weekend.
Last week, residents participated in a banquet celebration and raised funds for academic scholarships for local students. This weekend, churches and civic organizations will hold a parade, family activities and a memorial service to celebrate the federal holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which falls on Jan. 21 this year.
At 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 20, a march will be held in Gifford from the old Macedonia Baptist Church on 45th Street and 28th Court to the new Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church on 30th Avenue and 45th Street.
Once the march is complete, there will be a candlelight memorial service and special speakers, said Freddie Woolfork, director of public relations at the Gifford Youth Activity Center and a community leader.
The annual parade honoring the civil rights leader will be held on Jan. 21 at 10 a.m.
Larry Staley, parade coordinator for Indian River County, said the line-up for floats and other vehicles in the parade begins at 8 a.m. at the intersection of 37th Street and 19th Place.
The parade route leaves 37th Street, goes north to 45th Street/Martin Luther King Boulevard and continues on 43rd Avenue to Gifford Community Park.
Walking groups in the parade are not permitted to cross U.S. 1, and must assemble to join the parade on Old Dixie Highway, Mr. Staley said.
He said he expects between 60 and 65 floats to participate in the parade. Late entries are permitted with an extra registration fee.
Walkers are $3 each, cars are $20 each and trailer-type floats are $40. The funds raised by entry fees in the parade go toward scholarships for local high school students, Mr. Staley said.
The parade must start promptly at 10 a.m. because of coordination with the railway system.
Residents are invited to sit alongside the road to watch the parade. With safety as a high priority, none of the floats are permitted to throw candy or other trinkets to the people watching, Mr. Staley said.
Mr. Woolfork said he was excited about this year's parade and said he has his trombone ready to go.
"I'm going to be out there with my trombone tootin' in the parade," Mr. Woolfork said.
"I've done that for 28 years. It doesn't matter if I'm the only one or if there's 20 others, I'm going to be playing my trombone," he said with a laugh.
After the parade, at around noon, there will be vendors, food, entertainment and speakers at the Gifford Community Park for families to come out and enjoy together.
The Pastor's Association of Indian River County will provide one of the speakers, the Rev. Benny Rhyant of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church.
The program will include singing, poetry and dancing and the speaking will center around Martin Luther King Jr. and his efforts in the U.S., the Rev. Rhyant said.
Bleachers will be available for people to sit and watch the speakers and entertainment, he said.