published: Friday, January 11, 2013
Avon Park's MLK Festival bigger, better
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
AVON PARK - The commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. has become a tradition throughout America with many cities and communities celebrating King's life and legacy.
The city of Avon Park and its residents are gearing up for another year of celebration and servanthood for its week long 2013 MLK Festival.
The five-day event runs Jan. 17-21 and is packed with numerous events and activities to recognize the life and hard work of MLK and focuses solely on bringing together people of all different backgrounds.
The Avon Park Southside Community Redevelopment Agency Chairman Gerald Snell is excited about heading the event for the second year.
"We want to continue to move forward," Snell said. "He (MLK) wasn't just about equal rights for blacks; he was about equality for all."
With a full schedule of events, this year's MLK Festival has become the biggest in the city's history. The festival was started many years ago by Beatrice Peterson. Originally taking shape as a memorial walk, the MLK event grew over the years and was coordinated under multiple individuals and organizations. After the Heritage Committee took up the task of coordination, the walk turned into more of a parade, according to Snell. For the past two years however, the Southside CRA has headed the festival and is planning to take it to new heights.
First up on the festival agenda is the networking banquet. The banquet will be held Thursday throughout the day at the newly opened Super Chicken at 123 W. Main St.
Day two of the festival provides local students an opportunity to showcase their writing and speaking skills at the oratorical contest on Friday, Jan. 18. The contest will feature Avon Park Middle and High School writers who will share their thoughts about MLK and their ideas of service. Winners will be chosen after the contest at the Avon Park City Council chambers.
Saturday, Jan. 19 kicks off the start of the all day events for the weekend. Music, food, drinks, games, bounce houses, pony rides and entertainment are slated for Saturday through Monday, Jan. 19-21. Saturday also brings the second annual Peace Rally & Block Party hosted by Royston "Spanky" Daley.
Music will be provided by local DJ Mike P. A candlelight vigil will close out the evening with three guests speakers. Shari Lewis of Lake Placid, mother of Quentin Pope; Pam Ramsay of Sebring, mother of Clinton Flethcher; and Jackie Moore-Oliver of Avon Park, mother of Courtney Moore are all mothers who have each lost their son to violent crimes. The mothers of past victims of violence will share their testimonies and stories with the public. Daley will close out the day with an address following the three women.
A Jazz and Gospel Day awaits attendees on Sunday, Jan. 20 featuring local and up and coming artists such as Javis Mays, J L Cash, Pearl, Theologe and more. The concert will be held at Memorial Field; admission is $10 (or free when wearing official MLK Fest T-shirt).
The fun culminates Monday, Jan. 21 at noon with the annual MLK Day Parade.
"We have two grand marshals this year, Tealy Williams and retired NASA engineer L.C. Sumbry," Snell said.
The parade also comes with big changes this year; in a new location and starting point. This year's parade will wind its way through Downtown Avon Park beginning at the Depot Museum. (Walkers and floats will line up here). The parade will travel down onto Main Street eastbound, turn onto Delaney Avenue and end at Memorial Field where the fun festival will continue. Food vendors, arts and crafts, music and much more will fill the field following the parade.
The deadline for parade entries is Thursday. Any organization, business or individual of all races/ethnicities are welcome to join and be a part of the parade.
"I'm excited to get it (parade) downtown," Snell said. "Before, it was just not enough. We want everyone to come out and be a part of this because we have had so much support from the community. All of our local sponsors - Publix, Dunkin Donuts and especially John Shoop at Highlands Independent Bank - have made this possible; we are so thankful for him."
Any questions regarding parade entries, volunteer positions, vendor booths and more can be directed to Snell. For more information contact Snell at 873-6698. Parade registration entries and more information may be picked up at the Avon Park Chamber of Commerce, 28 E. Main St.
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