This year's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations have special significance because the first African-American president is days away from taking office. • But could Barack Obama's inauguration reduce the number of participants?
"We're going to lose people because they'll be driving to D.C. for the inauguration,'' said Gregg Svendgard, program director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in Dunedin.
Still, he hopes for a good turnout for Saturday's Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Day, which features a pancake breakfast, speeches by Mayor Bob Hackworth and Judge James Pierce among others, an art exhibit, local choirs and a city march.
Events are planned throughout North Pinellas in honor of the civil rights leader slain in 1968.
The Rev. Milton Smith, pastor of Mount Hermon Missionary Baptist Church, is looking forward to watching a diverse crowd celebrate King's memory and Obama's swearing-in by dancing the afternoon away to a reggae band at Dorsett Park in Tarpon Springs.
"Martin Luther King went to jail for the dream,'' Smith said. "He marched for the dream. Now young people can look at what's going on and see the dream can become a reality. A dream is only a dream unless it comes to fruition.''
Charla Lucas, Largo's special events coordinator, wants folks to come to her city's third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day party and enjoy bounce houses, educational games and poetry readings.
"I think this is a good time to get to know each other,'' she said.
Safety Harbor: Safety Harbor and the Safety Harbor African American Alliance are sponsoring a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Saturday at the Community Center, 650 Ninth Ave. S. The celebration begins at 8 a.m. with a breakfast and concludes with a march along Main Street at 10 a.m. Admission to the breakfast is $4 and the march is free. For information, call 724-1530.
Tarpon Springs: The 14th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Festival in Tarpon Springs will include a community concert at 7 p.m. today at Mount Hermon Missionary Baptist Church, 400 S Levis Ave. There will be a parade from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday from Lemon Street to Dorsett Park, followed by a family-friendly festival with food and entertainment. For information, call the Rev. Milton Smith at (727) 798-5718.
Dunedin: Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Day events on Saturday will include a Unity Breakfast, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., at the Hale Activity Center, 330 Douglas Ave.; call (727) 298-3299 to reserve a seat. At 11 a.m., there is a city march from Pioneer Park to the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, 550 Laura Lane. It will be followed by speeches and musical performances. For information, call Gregg Svendgard at (727) 738-2920.
Clearwater: The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on Monday will include a 10 a.m. march from the North Greenwood Recreation Center to Coachman Park. Events run from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. You are also invited to attend the sit-down breakfast at the Recreation Center.
Largo: The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will take place at 301 West Bay Drive. In the spirit of his legacy, people of all ethnicities are encouraged to come together for this event on Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. Hear great live music in the gazebo. Play games and activities and be a part of the annual community group. For information, visit largoevents.com.
Largo: The Greater Ridgecrest Community's Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast will be on Monday at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 13255 118th St. N, Largo. The event starts at 8 a.m. in the fellowship hall. For more information, call (727) 585-9080.