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MLK events kick off Friday

MANATEE -- The 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet is a sellout Friday night, with a crowd of 600 expected, but there is still plenty of room in Saturday’s parade for participants and spectators.

“To get a sellout crowd in this economy is incredible,” said Chris Lukowiak, executive director of the Palmetto Youth Center. “Everyone has been wonderful.”

A highlight of the celebration of the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. is the banquet at 7 p.m. Friday.

Among those to be recognized:

n Local CPA Byron Shinn with the Edgar H. Price Humanitarian Award.

n Gwen McElroy, registrar with Lincoln Middle School, with the Louise Rogers Johnson Award.

n Joan Krauter, executive editor of the Bradenton Herald, with the Outstanding Citizenship Award.

n Businessman Elihu Wallace with the Seymour Sailes Small Business Award.

n Raymond Bellamy, who broke the color barrier on the University of Miami football team in the 1960s, with the Trailblazer Award.

Also to be recognized are students selected as winners in the Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest.

For Saturday’s parade, the final number of entrants won’t be known for a couple of days.

“We have more than 100 parade entries right now, but in the next couple of days it should get really nuts. We anticipate as many as 150 entries,” Lukowiak said.

The parade is scheduled to start at noon Saturday at Lincoln Middle School, 305 17th St. E., proceed down 17th Street, turning onto Eighth Avenue, to 10th Street to Second Avenue and returning to Lincoln Middle School.

The parade is expected to last about two hours.

Following the parade Saturday will be the Youth Extravaganza, a youth talent show where trophies and cash will be awarded to winners. The event is set for 3 p.m. at the youth center, 501 17th St. W.

The observance concludes 6 p.m. Sunday with a nondenominational worship service at Palmetto Youth Center.