The new organizers of St. Petersburg's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade have booked the high-stepping Florida A&M University marching band and tapped Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston as grand marshal for the Jan. 16 event. The parade will also follow a new route this year.
The only hitch: Winston could be at an away game if the NFL playoff schedule works out a certain way.
"I really want the Bucs to keep winning," said Rosita Hubbard, parade organizer and executive secretary of Advantage Village Academy, "but I don't want a West Coast game to take him out of town."
The new parade has been renamed the MLK Dream Big Parade and organizers have added a block party along the 22nd Street S corridor to welcome Florida A&M on Jan. 15 and a family-friendly party after the parade on Jan. 16.
FAMU's famed "Marching 100" Rattlers band, one of the most notable marching bands in college history, will headline the parade. They performed Purple Rain with Prince for the 2007 Super Bowl halftime show in Miami, and at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The band is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year with more than 420 members. Hubbard said she worked especially hard to lock in FAMU, "because our theme this year is promoting collegiate futures."
In November, the city parted ways with longtime organizer Sevell Brown III after his financial interests in the parade came under scrutiny. Brown built the parade over the past 30 years into one of the largest MLK parades in the Southeast.
The city instead awarded the parade to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Pinellas, Advantage Village Academy and Toriano Parker.
The new parade route is essentially the reverse of the route used over the past 30 years. It will start on Central Avenue near Bayshore Drive, but this year will skip over to First Avenue S via Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S and end across from Tropicana Field.
The reason, Hubbard said, was to allow organizers to hold a Family Fun Day from 2:30 to 8 p.m. at Tropicana Field with kids' activities, entertainment and service programs.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at email@example.com. Follow @SharonKWn.