ST. PETERSBURG – The city’s 30th annual Martin Luther King Jr. weekend celebration, one of the largest in the nation, will culminate Monday with the downtown parade and festival.
As many as 100,000 people are expected at the Drum Major for Justice National Parade, which begins at 11 a.m. Monday and takes over downtown as it marches and rolls along Central Avenue and the bayfront.
The weekend celebration to honor King, the slain civil rights leader, is sponsored by the MLK Holiday & Legacy Association and the National Christ League of Councils Sponsors.
It begins with an awards banquet this evening with television and movie actor Clifton Davis, star of “That’s My Mama” and “Amen,” at the Hilton Bayfront Downtown.
Davis is making a return appearance, having served as parade grand marshal in 2009 and 2010. Davis, a minister who has a master of divinity degree, has evangelized at hundreds of church for more than 28 years and appeared on Christian television shows.
The celebration resumes with the annual Battle of the Bands & Drum Line Extravaganza from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Tropicana Field. The Bethune Cookman University Marching Wildcats Band & 14 Karat Girls, the St. Augustine High School Marching Purple Knights of New Orleans, and other bands from Florida, Georgia and Louisiana will participate.
Monday’s holiday events begin at 7:30 a.m. with the 29th Annual MLK Leadership Awards Breakfast at the Coliseum, featuring nationally known civil rights and social justice activist Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes III. Pastor at the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Haynes has been a guest at the White House, led community efforts against crime and poverty, helped to build churches in African nations, and was named in Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 list of most influential African Americans in 2012.
Author of “Healing our Broken Village,” Haynes was a featured speaker at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Prayer Breakfast in 2011.
Elsewhere, Tampa’s 26th annual MLK parade, part of the 10-day Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, is from noon to 3 p.m. Monday. It starts at 21st Avenue and 15th Street, goes north on 15th, east on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, then north on 22nd Street, ending at Osborne Avenue. According to the city, the best viewing is on 15th Street.
The Black Heritage music fest is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
And in Plant City, the King Carnival and Parade, with midway rides and games, food and entertainment, is scheduled for Saturday, with a downtown parade at 10:30 a.m.