Clayton celebrates MLK Day with parade

Participants in the annual Clayton County Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade wave to spectators Monday.

Participants in the annual Clayton County Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade wave to spectators Monday.

— The 13th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade almost had it all.

Dancers stepped to the beat of their own drummer.

Cub Scouts waved American flags.

Preachers preached King’s message.

Cowboys galloped down the street on their horses.

Morticians told people where to have their funerals.

Attendees at the Elijah Masonic Lodge No. 309/Electra Special No. 109 Eastern Star’s annual Martin Luther King Day celebration said they thought the parade was “nice” overall. But some of those same residents said they were left wanting a little bit more.

“There were too many businesses in the parade,” said Jonesboro resident Vera Thurman. “And a lot of them seemed like they were only in the parade to promote their businesses.”


Curt Yeomans

McDonough youth Derrin Gamble Jr., 2, enjoys a lollipop at the annual Clayton County Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade Monday. Many of the spectators at the parade were young children who enjoyed the candy thrown to them by parade participants.

Monday marked the 13th year masons have hosted their annual King holiday parade. Approximately 700 people came to see the parade, down from last year when more than 1,000 people descended on Jonesboro’s Main Street.

Then again, the parade did have some competition this year. President Barack Obama’s second inauguration was being administered at the same time after all.

Some attendees figured it was no coincidence there were lighter crowds while the president was giving his inaugural address.

“It was because of the inauguration,” said Jonesboro resident Shirley Gantt.

Thurman added, “I wanted to finish watching it myself. I stayed home until just before the parade and then I made my way up here so I could celebrate Dr. King’s legacy.”

But, the parade proved to be a hit with children who got to see dance troops, motorcycle police, Tuskegee Airmen, a giant “birthday cake” and a cowboy standing on his horse’s back.

McDonough youth Kyla Poby smiled brightly as Jonesboro police Cpl. Adam Bennett handed her a lollipop on the side of North Main Street Monday.


Curt Yeomans

McDonough youth Kyla Poby (front left) accepts a lollipop from Jonesboro police Cpl. Adam Bennett during the annual Clayton County Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade Monday. Poby said the candy was one of her favorite parts of the parade.

The lollipop had been thrown from a parade float in the county’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade but it failed to make it far enough for Poby, who came with Girl Scout Troop 12700, to get it. As Bennett walked toward the youth, she reached out and thanked him for the candy.

After the parade was over, Poby and her fellow Girl Scout, Jada Howard, offered different reasons why they liked the parade.

“I liked the black cowboy that was standing on his horse,” said Howard.

“And the candy!” said Poby as she harkened back to her brief encounter with the police officer.

State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro) gave some of the younger spectators a history lesson. He stood inside a car with half of his body sticking out of the sunroof as he held a megaphone in his hand and recited excerpts from some of King’s more famous speeches.


Curt Yeomans

State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro) recites excerpts from many of Martin Luther King Jr.’s more famous speeches during Clayton County’s annual King Holiday parade Monday.

Granted, some of the children didn’t know who they were watching at the time.

“I liked it when the man was doing the speeches,” said McDonough youth Nia Cole.

However, while the funeral home floats made it into this year’s parade, Gantt said there was something missing — namely a youth element.

While there were several children participating as members of dance teams or riding in the back of floats, there was the glaring lack of marching bands.

None of the county’s nine high schools had marching bands in the parade, which stood in stark contrast to last year, when several high school marching bands participated.

“I just wish it had more children in it this year,” Gantt said. “There weren’t enough kids.”