GIFFORD – Crowds lined the streets of Gifford Monday morning for the 25th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade, which started at US 1 and 37th Street and ended at Gifford Park.
By mid-day, organizers expected as many as 4,000 people to descend on the park to participate in an array of activities ranging from singing to dancing to speeches.
A variety of foods, too, were on the menu during the festivities ranging from conch salad and barbecue ribs to teriyaki wings and other such offerings.
The 3-mile parade’s 56 groups of participants wound its way north on US 1 to Old Dixie Highway, then over 45th Street – also named for the slain civil rights leader Dr. King – then north on 43rd Avenue to the park.
“This is record time,” parade organizer Tammy Broxton-Brown, said of how quickly the first of the participants arrived to the park shortly after 11 a.m. She said it’s almost noon before the participants show up.
Along the route, members of the various law enforcement agencies, several schools and local agencies could be seen cheering and waving, including groups from Sebastian, Fellsmere, Indian River Shores, Vero Beach, and even Delray Beach.
“The key is to try to target the kids,” event organizer Larry Staley said after the parade. “We’re not trying to reminisce the past” but to teach.
He said the goal is to teach the children about the struggles that lead to the Civil Rights movements of the mid-1900s in hopes of preventing those struggles from returning.
“We’re looking at some of the dreams coming true,” Staley said, pointing to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti last week.
“You can see real love” in how the people – all people – have responded to the catastrophe, Staley said. “That’s what Dr. King was about.”
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities are expected to last through until 6 p.m. at Gifford Park, with entertainment, activities and food.
Law enforcement is on scene directing traffic into and out of the park on 43rd Avenue. Festivalgoers should drive with caution in the area.