Monday’s radiant sunshine created the perfect day to celebrate the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as citizens of all races gathered around the historic Harrison County Courthouse to view the grand parade.

“It was nice. I loved it. I’ve always loved it,” said 66-year-old Paul Oliver, who traveled from Longview to share in the occasion.

“It was a beautiful day, and the weather cooperated, and we thank God for it,” said Zephaniah Timmins, vice president of the Harrison County NAACP Branch No. 6185, which organizes the annual celebration.

The celebration kicked off noon with a parade, continued with a youth talent show and ended with an evening banquet, which was held at Marshall Convention Center.

Reflecting on the occasion, which was held in memory of the slain civil rights leader and his legacy, Oliver said the federal holiday brings him joy.

“It’s wonderful. That’s all I can describe….joyful,” he said.

Taking part in the occasion were elected officials, candidates, organizational queens, churches, schools, businesses, motorcycles, horses, a host of classic cars and more.

Parade winners were: the Order of Eastern Star Ruth Chapter #1400 in first place for beauty; David Crockett Elementary in first place for creativity and David Crocket again for first them in theme.

As some children raced for candy, others grabbed for Mardi Gras beads.

Erik Lopez, a freshman at East Texas Baptist University, said he and fellow students had fun coming out to support ETBU’s floats as well as pay tribute to Dr. King.

“I like the diversity, seeing the trucks, all of that,” said Lopez, sharing he doesn’t see such festivities in his hometown of Joshua.

Jennifer Bradford, who traveled from Tatum to support her niece, who was a part of the Delta Gems entry, was also impressed.

“I enjoyed it,” said Bradford.

“It was nice to see the different cars and sayings of Martin Luther King,” she said of the messages of love, justice and peace that were exhibited.

Timmins thanked all who participated in the parade, talent show or sponsored a table or bought tickets for the banquet.

The parade, in particular, boasted approximately 100 participants.

“I want to thank the City of Marshall, our biggest supporter,” Timmins said, thanking Marshall Police Chief Cliff Carruth, in particular, for always leading the processional.

Timmins also expressed appreciation to Marshall Fire Chief Reggie Cooper for entering a unit in the parade and allowing members of the Marshall Maverick football team to be showcased in it.

The commemoration continued at the evening banquet where keynote speaker, Sheila Willis Timberlake, pastor of Bethel CME Church in Beckville, delivered a powerful message on the theme:  “Defeat Hate- Vote; Your Vote Counts.”      

“It’s time for us to defeat hate and vote,” she said. “The day is over for taking for granted the privilege that was given to us to vote.”

Another way to conquer hate is through Agape love, she said.

“If we are going to defeat hate, it is going to be done through unconditional love of all mankind,” Timberlake  said.

In her welcome to the occasion, Raven Bernoudy, a third grader at William B. Travis Elementary, shared how this year’s theme also inspired her, particularly since it’s been her dream since age 3 to become the first female president of the United States.

“It’s because of civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that my dream can be possible,” the 8-year-old said. “So, I hope you are inspired this evening, just like I know I will be as we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King’s dream.”

The banquet was attended by both county and city officials.

Winners of the essay contest were announced. They were: Dakota Pierce, a fifth grader at David Crockett; Brynn Rosenstein, an eighth grader at Marshall Junior High School, and Andrea Hernandez, a ninth grader at Marshall HighSchool.

Timmins thanked Upscale Catering, program participants and all the committees, who worked so diligently to make the day-long celebration possible.

“We all worked well together,” he said. “We helped each other think.”