By Joel Hall
The Clayton County Martin Luther King, Jr., Parade, celebrating the legacy of the slain civil rights leader, has been a Jonesboro tradition for the last nine years.
This weekend, however, the parade will take place in the City of Riverdale for the first time. It will begin on Saturday, at 10 a.m., at New Macedonia Baptist Church, located at 7725 Ga. Highway 85 in Riverdale, proceed north on Ga. Highway 85, and end in the parking lot of The Home Depot store, located at 680 Lamar Hutcheson Parkway.
Herman Turner, the parade's organizer, said more than 40 groups are scheduled to participate in this year's parade, and many of them will have decorative floats.
He said marchers will include high school marching bands, church groups and community organizations, including local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, car clubs and horse clubs. There will also be personnel from local police and fire departments, elected officials, and members of the Tuskegee Airmen.
"It is the first time we have had it [the parade] in the City of Riverdale," Turner said. "Last year, [the] Jonesboro [City Council] told us that they were going to have construction going on in the City of Jonesboro, so we were going to have it somewhere else. The city welcomed us there, so we are proud to be able to put it on in Riverdale. I think it's good for the city and the parade committee ... We'll probably attract some new people, who didn't come out [to previous parades]."
Riverdale Police Chief Sam Patterson said the city is not new to large parades. In 2008, it hosted a Veteran's Day Parade with more than 60 groups participating, he said.
"We're going to shut down the northbound side [of Ga. Highway 85]," Patterson said. "We don't anticipate having an impact on the southbound side of [Ga. Highway] 85, except at the intersections where they might have some cross traffic from pedestrians.
"The greatest impact is going to be [on] those coming out of Fayetteville, coming northbound," he said. "We will allow them to go left or right on [Ga.] Highway 138, once the parade clears Highway 138, so traffic isn't backed up from there to [The] Home Depot.
"We are going to try to beat the drum for them," he added. "We'd really like for them to come out, park at some of the businesses along [Ga.] Highway 85, get out of their cars, and encourage the participants."
Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon welcomed the idea of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Parade being held in Riverdale. She said it will serve as "an excellent form of outreach" to citizens, and will showcase that Riverdale is "not a sleepy city anymore."
"This gentleman [King] was a forerunner for peace, education, and dignity, and he needs to be honored," said Wynn-Dixon. "When I was a very young girl, I got a chance to see him first-hand. We're honored to put on such a great event for such a great man. [King taught us] that the American dream can be applicable to anybody. My children and my grandchildren are part of that dream."
The parade is free and open to the public. For more information, call Herman Turner at (770) 997-3393.