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Brooksville's King Day parade lacked only one thing: enough spectators

The Hernando High School marching band walks in formation down Fort Dade Avenue on Monday. Not every marching band scheduled was able to attend.
The Hernando High School marching band walks in formation down Fort Dade Avenue on Monday. Not every marching band scheduled was able to attend.
Published Jan. 21, 2014

All things considered, the new incarnation of Brooksville's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade was a big success.

A couple of a marching bands didn't show up, but the ones that did played their hearts out. And maybe nobody played harder than the crowd favorite, the band from Sligh Middle School in Tampa.

Brooksville native Maulty Moore served as the parade's grand marshal, and he dressed grandly, too, in a blazer of Miami Dolphins aqua; as every Brooksville resident should know, Moore, a graduate of the old Moton School, played for the team in its Super Bowl seasons of 1972 and 1973.

Otherwise, Moore was about as down to earth as a former professional athlete can be, willing to take off his Super Bowl rings and let you feel the heft of all that gold and explain how the Dolphins dominated the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl after the 1973 season — by running right at the dreaded-but-undersized Purple People Eaters on the defensive line.

Paul Douglas, president of the Hernando County branch of the NAACP, sat next to Moore at a table in front of Brooksville City Hall, telling the crowd about the history of the civil rights movement, which was more than appropriate because Douglas lived a good part of it.

Only the third of the epic, King-led, Selma-to-Montgomery marches in 1965 covered the entire distance. Douglas, then a student at nearby Tuskegee Institute (now University), was part of the crowd that staked out the Alabama Capitol building in Montgomery on the night before the successful final march arrived.

It was good to see Brooksville well represented, with City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha and Mayor Kevin Hohn both on hand.

So was Billy Healis, the local Walmart executive who brought the company in as a sponsor and helped revive the Brooksville King Day parade tradition, with a few changes: recruiting the school bands and establishing a new route up Howell Avenue to City Hall.

It's not just a logistical change, but a symbolic one. Along with the backing of the city and a major company, it's a long-overdue sign that mainstream Brooksville — white Brooksville — recognizes that King Day should be a celebration for the entire community, not just the black community, and that King is not only an African-American hero, but an American hero.

The only disappointment was that more people didn't show up to honor his legacy. The crowd seemed a little sparse, especially compared to the throng that shows up for the city's annual Christmas parade.

And, because white people were in a definite minority, it would be nice, especially, if more of them showed up next year to honor King's legacy.

I know. Lots of people spend Memorial Day at the beach rather than listening to patriotic speeches and the playing of taps. We all have things to do on our days off and chances are good that — if we don't work for a bank or the government — we didn't even have the day off.

Also, Healis and Douglas said, many people in the community didn't know about the parade, partly because the organizers didn't start putting it together until about three months ago.

That will change, Douglas said: "We start working on next year's parade tomorrow."

So, go ahead and mark it on your calendar.