This year, St. Petersburg's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade has new organizers, a new name, a new route and aims to shine the light on collegiate futures as its central theme.
Here are five things to know before you go:
The parade: A whopping 110 units, including the popular marching bands from Florida A&M University and Tuskegee University, will be lined up by the Pier approach downtown before heading along Central Avenue. The parade runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Star power: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston takes command as grand marshal, his first time in the parade's lead car. FAMU's legendary Marching 100 band is credited with revolutionizing marching bands by bucking tradition with its high-stepping style. It has played at Super Bowls, the Olympics, the Grammy Awards, presidential inaugurations and backed Prince in 2007 in one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows of all time. The Tuskegee University band is no slouch, either. It's the oldest of all marching bands at historically black colleges and universities. It's known for its unique marching style, powerful music arrangements and the intricate dance steps of its Crimson Piperettes.
Parking and shuttles: The regular Central Avenue trolley will move over to First Avenue N (westbound) and Fourth Avenue N (eastbound) to bypass the parade. It's 50 cents per ride. Parking garages include the Sundial parking garage, 117 Second St. N, at $1 for four hours and $1 for each additional hour with a $7 maximum; South Core Parking Garage, 101 First Ave. S, $1 per hour, $7 maximum; Al Lang Stadium surface lot, First Street and First Avenue S, $5 flat rate for all day; the 800 Lot at First Avenue S and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, $5 flat rate all day. For parking information, see stpete.org/parking/index.asp.
Reversed route: The parade begins at 11 a.m. and will essentially reverse the route used over the past 30 years — so the parade ends at Tropicana Field instead of lining up there. The reason: The parking lot of the Trop will host a Family Fun Day from 2:30 to 8 p.m. with kids' activities, entertainment, college information and service programs.
New name: Now called the MLK Dream Big Parade, organizers chose it "to encourage people to pursue their dreams like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." Organizers worked with St. Petersburg College to reinvent the festivities to focus on collegiate opportunities as well as Day of Service programs. Go to spcollege.edu/mlkservice to find out how to get involved with service projects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in St. Petersburg.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.