Parade celebrants march past Snellville City Hall on Monday in the Third Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade and Celebration. (Dwayne Hood)
SNELLVILLE – Political rivals put aside differences Monday as the Snellville community came together for a day of unity in a parade and luncheon marking the Third Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration.
Mayor Kelly Kautz walked at the head of the mile-long parade route from the New Jerusalem Baptist Church on Dogwood Road to the Snellville United Methodist Church on Highway US 78 where a ham and turkey luncheon was held for more than 200 people.
“We had a huge turnout,” Kautz said as the event was closing with celebrants turning to hug those around them. “I’m happy to see the spirit of community that we’ve had today.”
The morning was sunny but chilly as dozens of people lined streets to watch about 300 people walk in the parade led by the South Gwinnett High School Junior Army ROTC marching in cadence to the cry of “My way or the highway.” The parade also included the South Gwinnett band. The theme for this year’s celebration was “Unity in the Community.”
Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts and Councilman Bobby Howard were at the luncheon and posed for photographs with the mayor. There was no mention of political differences that have rocked the mayor and city council in recent weeks as black and white residents marked the life and teachings of the iconic civil rights leader.
“We must continue to join together, work together and unite together and fight for freedom,” said State Senator Gloria Butler of District 55, who spoke at the luncheon. “….It is the spirit of unity in the community that we have assembled here today to demonstrate our dedication and sincerity to make our community a better place to live, to work and to raise our families.”
Preparations for the parade and luncheon were spearheaded by Kautz and the Rev. Ellijah Collins of the New Jerusalem Baptist Church. He called the turnout “awesome” and predicted that next year’s event will be larger. He also called for future celebrations to not only honor the life and teachings of Dr. King but to reach out to homeless people in the community.
“We’ve got homeless people in Snellville,” Collins noted. “They may not be staying in parks and under bridges, they are staying somewhere else, but they are here. So we need to not only come together as a community but also reach out to those in need.”
In addition to the speech by Butler, performances were given by the Triple 7 Dance team, Pink Anthem and the NJB Choir. Miss Brookwood Ariana Stringfellow sang the national anthem and food was donated by Hormel Foods, Panera Bread and Chick-fil-A. Congregants from several area churches also helped in food preparation.
Collins said anyone interested in working on next year’s King Day Parade and Celebration should sign up at MLKSnellville@gmail.com.