Bands, floats and children will line the downtown streets of Mesa on Monday, Jan. 21, as part of the city’s weekend-long celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.
John Goodie, a committee member who helps organize the events, said two decades ago when a parade was suggested as a way to honor King, the thought was laughed at by some.
“That was our vision. We kept that alive. It’s important for people to come out and celebrate diversity,” he said. “I’ve been at this a long time. I see adults now … who tell me, ‘I remember having a parade in fifth or sixth grade,’ and now they’re attending the MLK event with their family.”
The parade, which starts at 11 a.m., is just one piece of the celebration put together by a group of volunteers. There’s a candlelight vigil 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, at Dobson High School and a dinner Saturday, Jan. 19.
Following the parade Monday, a festival will be held at the Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. The noon to 5 p.m. event will include music, food and outreach programs, as well as a youth area.
Goodie said that a small group of Mesa residents helped flame the idea of events to honor the Civil Rights leader. Goodie remembers the first one — a potluck dinner with poetry readings and King’s words shared among a group in a Chandler home.
“For years, people would go to Phoenix for the celebrations. We got to asking ourselves, ‘How can we go to Phoenix and right here in Mesa we don’t have anything honoring Dr. King?” he said. “The plate is full now. And we have thousands of people who will attend our events.”
Besides the celebrations, volunteers will come together this weekend with the city’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors Program and paint the home of a retired disabled Air Force veteran.
For information about the parade route or other events during the “Many Faces, One Community” weekend, see MesaMLK.org.
Gilbert will also host a family event Monday, with a picnic from 1 to 5 p.m. at Redemption Church, 1820 W. Elliot Road.
If you go
What: Mesa’s Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Festival, including Mesa Police, Mesa Fire, marching bands and community leaders and organizations. District 4 Councilmember Chris Glover, who represents downtown Mesa, is grand marshal.
When: Parade is at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21. Festival is noon to 5 p.m.
Where: The parade will begin at University Drive and Center Street and proceed south to First Avenue. The festival will be held at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.
Details: At 9:30 a.m., Center Street will close between University Drive and Broadway; First Street will close between Macdonald and Centennial; First Avenue will close between Macdonald and Sirrine. At 10 a.m., Main Street will close between Country Club Drive and Mesa Drive. All of the streets will reopen by 1 p.m.
MLK candlelight ceremony
What: A free multi-cultural and non-denominational service with music, the keynote speaker is Karen Korematsu, co-founder of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights.
When: 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18
Where: Mesa High School, 1630 E. Southern Ave.
MLK annual dinner
When: Reception begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, with dinner at 7 p.m.
Where: Windemere Hotel and Conference Center, 5750 E. Main St., Mesa
Details: The keynote speaker is former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy.
Cost: $45 per person
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