published: Friday, October 04, 2013
AP may have 2 MLK events
NAACP and residents want focus on service
By PHIL ATTINGER
AVON PARK -- Members of the community who oppose having the city spend $10,000 on a weekend festival for Martin Luther King Jr. Day want to host their own events.
They haven't announced any plans yet, but they only have 16 weeks before the holiday on Jan. 20, 2014.
Meanwhile, Avon Park's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Planning Committee -- part of the Southside Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board -- has hired a coordinator, set up a schedule and has a fundraiser in November to help pay for the event downtown.
Travis Garcia, event coordinator, said activities from Jan. 17-20, 2014, will include a community block party that Friday; a basketball tournament, oratorical contest and art show on Saturday; a unity concert, short speech and candlelight vigil Sunday, and the annual March on the Mall Parade Monday.
It's hoped that the weekend would become a premiere event drawing participants and visitors from communities in Highlands and surrounding counties, said Gerald Snell, chairman of the Southside CRA Advisory Board.
To date, the CRA has spent $3,500 to hire Garcia and $1,800-$2,000 to bring artist James Hahn to do a live painting fundraiser on Nov. 1 at the Jacaranda Hotel, said Administrative Services Director Maria Sutherland.
Garcia said Hahn would be a big draw, with a following statewide and nationally. Sutherland said projected revenue is $6,000 and expects tickets to sell out at $25 per person.
Although the fundraiser would be a paid event, all events on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend would be free, Snell said, as they have been for the two years the CRA has run it.
"The admission was free and admission will always be free," Snell said.
Some residents have raised questions about having commercial vendors at the event versus having area churches provide free food.
Snell reached out to churches to participate, and a few did last year. However, he said other central Florida cities, including Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Bartow, Fort Meade and "little ol' Frostproof" bring in commercial vendors on Martin Luther King Day.
Several residents at an information meeting on Sept. 27 said they wanted to see residents and churches plan the event again, as an education and remembrance event and not a festival.
Fern Davis, who moved to Avon Park in 2010, said other Martin Luther King Jr. Day events are days of service to feed and help others and teach youth that African-Americans, Hispanics and Caucasians all fought -- and died -- for racial equality.
"If you don't tell the youth, they don't know the struggle that they are taking lightly," Davis said.
Aljoe Hinson, president of Highlands County NAACP and former city councilman, has spoken against the $10,000 cost -- including Garcia's pay -- saying the CRA should instead make more housing and infrastructure improvements in the Southside District.
Advisory board member Arnold Davis asked if the city could look at hosting the event in the Southside District itself, such as on the corner of East Hal McRae Boulevard and South Delaney Avenue. However, Garcia said logistics such as providing power for the stage and vendors or facilitating a large crowd might not work at that location. Plus, the city would need to make fully accessible restrooms and trash cans available.
Garcia also said he would approach corporate sponsors looking to donate to non-profits at the end of the year to help offset costs.
Sutherland said people should keep in mind that Avon Park had no one person specifically paid to coordinate the event last year, so city staff carried some of the work load.
REALLY (by: WOW - 10/12/2013)
MAYBE IF THE SOUTHSIDE GOT WHAT MAIN STREET HAS THEY WOULD HAVE POWER ETC GERALD SNELL GET A GRIPPPPPPP.FORGOT WHERE U CAME FROM HEYYYY.
Appauled (by: Amy Kramer - 10/6/2013)
Don't you just love how people complain when you give them what they want and then they still have room for complaints. Typical. I sure would like to see a celebration of this caliber for President's Day or better yet how about the first President of the United States George Washington. I guarantee people wouldn't say a word if funds were contributed for an event like this. SOME people just can't help themselves.
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