Organizers of the Mesa Martin Luther King Jr. holiday festivities are hoping for an uptick in attendance this weekend after some changes last year led to disappointing numbers for one part of the otherwise popular celebration.
The MLK Celebration Committee found a new banquet unveiled last year drew only 350 people, down 100 or more from a breakfast that had been held for years.
Organizers figured the banquet would draw more people because some people worked on the Monday holiday and couldn't attend the breakfast, said Everette R. Woods Sr., a committee board member. He figures the Saturday evening banquet will do better in its second year.
Otherwise, Mesa's celebration is Arizona's largest MLK event. A parade typically draws 6,000 to 8,000 spectators. That also makes it the biggest event in the West, Woods said.
The parade draws people from across the Valley and state. Woods said Mesa's MLK events have had such strong support because of how the community came together to observe the holiday.
"We had a problem getting it in the city also," Woods said. "I think that probably had a lot to do with it."
Then-Gov. Evan Mecham rescinded the holiday in 1987, in his first act in office. A backlash triggered boycotts, but voters approved a statewide holiday in 1992. Three years later, Mesa voters approved a holiday.
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