LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Lake Charles is commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the 36th Annual Martin Luther King Parade and Family Day Festival.
Leading up to Monday’s festivities, Southwest Louisiana held several events honoring Dr. King and the message he left behind.
The parade rolled through Lake Charles at 11 a.m., with members of the Washington-Marion and Lake Charles College Prep bands performing.
Watch the parade below.
People of all ages lined the streets to take part. The excitement then moved to the Lake Charles Civic Center for the annual MLK Family Day, which included food, live performances, shopping vendors and even a voter registration table.
However, if you ask those attending Monday’s events, Martin Luther King Jr. Day signifies way more than the candy that’s thrown at the parade or the items sold at family day.
“It’s a movement every day and every moment...I can’t remember how many times I was coming up, we couldn’t even go in the front of a building we had to go through the back," said parade attendee Earl Boet.
For organizers, Monday was a chance to remember Dr. King and the sacrifices that brought progress in civil rights.
“It wasn’t just Atlanta, it wasn’t just Montgomery but that same path came right through Southwest Louisiana and there are people who, till this day, remember walking and remember marching," said local pastor Braylon Harris.
For many young and old, the historic meaning of the day was not lost. Along with plenty of entertainment and good food...the city’s celebration of Dr. King had a broader sense of purpose--offering health and wellness screenings along with voter registration tables.
“This is a very important election year...we have a presidential election coming up, Congress and local seats are also up for grabs," said local NAACP president, Alvin Joseph. "One vote can make a difference.”
“Just letting the first time voters know the importance of their vote,” said local attorney Kendrick Guidry.
“With community involvement, every day we add a new segment..health, wellness, caring about each other...all of the things Dr. King advocated for,” said MLK Coalition Exec. Director Roxie Smith.
Community leaders said they’re encouraged when they see a diverse cross-section of the community coming out to remember Dr. King.
“It’s the sidebar conversations that happen that really constitutes the unity of not only the community but also across the city and across the country," said Harris.
Family Day is underway at the Civic Center, with zydeco, R&B, blues, and southern soul music. There will also be a Celebrity Gumbo Cook-Off Contest, local vendors, exhibits, arts & crafts, and Creole and Cajun food. All Family Day events are free.
The money raised from this year’s festival will help fund the MLK Coalition’s Scholarship Program in addition to future health programs.