ST. PETERSBURG — With Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston as grand marshal and the popular marching bands from Florida A&M and Tuskegee University, the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade got a high-stepping shot in the arm this year.
This year's parade has new organizers, a new name — the MLK Dream Big Parade — a new route and a new burst of ambition, said Rosita Hubbard, parade organizer and executive secretary of Advantage Village Academy.
Also new is a block party Sunday night welcoming back the FAMU Marching 100 — its first time headlining the MLK Day parade in nearly a decade — as well as the Tuskegee University Marching Crimson Piper Band.
The block party will be held Sunday from 6 to 11 p.m. at Ninth Avenue S and 22nd Street — the neighborhood nicknamed "the Deuces."
The parade starts at 11 a.m. Monday and will essentially reverse the route used over the past 30 years — the parade ends at Tropicana Field instead of lining up there. The reason, Hubbard said, was to allow organizers to hold a Family Fun Day from 2:30 to 8 p.m. Monday afternoon at Tropicana Field with kids' activities, entertainment and service programs.
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.
Having two of the most notable historically black colleges in the parade lineup dovetails with this year's parade theme of "collegiate futures," Hubbard said.
"We are having an education drive so a lot of people come out for the bands but then we can focus on what you need to do to get to that next level, to get your education," Hubbard said.
FAMU's famed Marching 100 last played in St. Petersburg in 2007. It is one of the most notable marching bands in college history. It performed Purple Rain with Prince for the 2007 Super Bowl halftime show in Miami and at the Grammys with Kanye West. The band marched in both of President Bill Clinton's inaugural parades and played for President Barack Obama's inauguration.
The band is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year with more than 200 members. That's down from its peak of more than 400 members before the university grappled with the November 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion and a two-year suspension from performing.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.