The sun was shining, the skies were blue and everybody on Statesboro's North and West Main streets Monday seemed to be exuberant as they watched the 2010 Martin Luther King Day parade wind its way through downtown.
The weather may have been a factor in the larger-than-normal crowd attending the annual parade, but for whatever reason, sidewalks were filled with people of all races and ages waiting to see the floats, dignitaries, beauty queens and classic cars file past.
As the parade went by, people on the sidewalks called out to those they knew who were marching or riding in the parade, and some participants fell out of step, running to hug bystanders they knew. The parade had an overall ambience of happiness, friendliness and joy as it rolled through town.
Nell Stephens sat in a canvas chair, watching the parade from a spot on North Main Street. She said Martin Luther King Day commemorates progress in equality for all races, pointing out that King wished for peace among all races.
"Sometimes it seems like (progress) slows down," she said. "But, it's much better than what it was." She also said she hopes the holiday will encourage young people to "take more interest in their history."
Her husband, James Stephens, agreed. "We came a long way, but we still have a way to go," he said. Observance of the holiday means a great deal to him in that it recognizes King's mission and what he "stood for, and people who followed him. It should mean a lot to all people."
Bridget Campbell said the day's celebration meant "love, peace and happiness" to her, for all people of all races. She said she was glad to see "everybody come out and join together as one big family."
The parade theme was "Realizing Our Dreams Through Unity." Floats, cars with dignitaries and marching groups reflected this theme through colorful banners and signs. Fraternities and sororities, schools, churches and other groups marched or rode past, and many performed dance steps to music. Many groups were made up of people from all races and age groups, emphasizing unity, which is what King's mission represented.
And as the bands went by, many on the sidelines danced and clapped to the music as well.
Larry Michael viewed the parade from the seat of his bicycle. He said he admired King and said he was happy to see "everybody getting along. That's why we're here (celebrating) today."
"It's a very great day," said Rosa Lee Blount. She compared the way things are today to times in the past, when segregation prevented blacks from interacting with whites in many instances.
"We have so much more going on now," she said. We can go into restaurants and eat like we want, go to movies, and back then you didn't see that. Now, blacks and whites, we can be as one family."
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.