PALMETTO -- People lined the streets of Palmetto on Saturday afternoon to watch marching bands, antique cars and decorated floats drive by with the hopes of grabbing candy and other prizes at the 23rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.
Approximately 50 individuals and organizations entered the parade, filling the parking lot at Lincoln Memorial Middle School in anticipation of the march with the theme, 'We are all part of the same dream.'"
Art students from Louise R. Johnson Middle School of International Studies spent the past two weeks decorating their trailer with a portrait of King, flags from different countries and dream catchers.
"It was fun," said Samuel Muniz, 11. "It let me express myself."
The trailer was wrapped with blue paper cut into the shape of waves and ocean creatures inspired by King's quote, "We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."
"When I read that quote, it went with the theme," said Leroy "Red" Bellamy, director of in-school suspension at the school.
Three students marched with the float last year, but this year there were 25.
"I tried to get the kids to come out
because it's a bunch of fun," Bellamy said. "How many people get the opportunity to walk in a parade?"
Bonnie Jea Durning, substitute art teacher, and Jessie Shields, who works ground and maintenance, also helped with the entry.
"Last year we got second," Durning said. "We're going for first."
The hard work paid off because Johnson Middle School did win the parade contest.
Emmanuel God Church of Bradenton took home second place. Hip-hop and contemporary gospel music played from their black and gold float. Those riding and marching alongside were dressed in military camouflage.
"We represent the United Saints of God's Army," said Schonda Crumbs, deaconess and youth leader. "Dr. King walked with people of many religions and many backgrounds. We just love people. At the end of the day, it's all about unity."
Words like joy, love, peace and temperament decorated the float.
"That's what we're standing for," Crumbs said. "All the things Dr. King fought for."
Third place went to the Palmetto Youth Center, whose entry was decorated with photos of King. Kids involved in "carrying on the dream" waved from their massive float.
Entries were judged on originality, appearance, best design, showmanship and uniqueness.
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041.