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High Point parade sets goal of unity

In a changing community with few traditions, the High Point Founders Day Parade plays a role in promoting neighborly ties.

There aren't too many ties that bind the High Point community.

The makeup of the neighborhood, a diverse unincorporated community east of the Largo city limits, has been in transition in recent years. Community newsletters promote Asian language classes. The local YMCA has computer classes taught in Spanish.

Thirty-six percent of its residents rent, according to a 1999 survey. Many don't stay long, prompting some to call High Point a transient community.

In 1997, neighborhood activists brainstormed on ways to bring the community together. One idea was to organize a parade.

On Thursday, as community leaders made final preparations for Saturday's fourth annual High Point Founders Day Parade, many believe the event has brought together the numerous ethnic groups that live in High Point. The parade has also become a tradition in a neighborhood with few traditions, they agree.

"It really has exemplified not only the evolution of the neighborhood, but a tradition of community celebration and self-respect," said Suncoast Family YMCA executive director Steve Tarver, who is leaving Pinellas County after 11 years to run the Y's Louisville, Ky., operations.

"It's just one of the events we've tried to do every year that our residents have grown accustomed to," said Fran Lever, a longtime neighborhood activist and member of High Point Community Pride.

The parade will begin at 10 a.m. at Autoway Chevrolet on the frontage road of U.S. 19 near 150th Avenue N. It will end at the YMCA of High Point at 5345 Laurel Place. In past years, residents have been encouraged to join the parade as it passes through. Organizers expect as many as 300 participants. County Commissioners Calvin Harris and Karen Seel are expected to attend.

After the parade, the YMCA will host activities for children that include a potato sack race, a scavenger hunt and basketball free-throw shooting contest.

Parade organizers are emphasizing the theme of diversity, asking participants to carry signs or something that represents their heritage.

"By having this parade, we're trying to promote that we can work together," said Pinellas Sheriff's Sgt. Lendel Bright, a High Point resident who is a lead organizer of Saturday's events.