The 30th annual King Week celebration honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is set to kick off this month with various events tailored to all ages.
Martin Luther King committee president Marcia Washington said this year's events will provide an opportunity for attendees to reflect on the late civil rights leader's accomplishments and look forward to progression.
"Looking back, growing up in Louisiana, everything was segregated," Washington said. "I remember when Dr. King was killed ... I'm proud to see things have changed. Unfortunately, there's still some discrimination, but I think the younger generation might be the one to change that."
One of the first King Week events is the Young Dreamers Awards Program, set for 6 p.m. today at the Second Baptist Church, 500 W. Madison Ave. The program will recognize academic excellence among youths nominated by their school principals.
Other events surrounding education are planned for the celebration, including the formal 30th Anniversary King Banquet , planned for 6 p.m. Saturday in the Starlight Ballroom at the Flamingo, 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South. Proceeds from the banquet will go toward college scholarships for students. The featured speaker is set to be Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and past parade grand marshals are invited to the black-tie event.
Washington hopes the banquet will generate more scholarship funds than in past years, despite the down economy.
"We hope to exceed our fundraising goals this year," Washington said. "In previous years, we've averaged $10,000 for students, but with the economy, we don't have as much participation."
Following the banquet is the annual downtown parade, slated to begin at 10 a.m. Monday and travel down Fourth Street from Charleston Boulevard to Stewart Avenue. This year's grand marshals are Patricia Cunningham, KCEP-FM 88.1 news director and talk show host ; Gene Collins, former state assemblyman and director of the National Action Network Las Vegas chapter; Steve Schorr, Cox Communications Las Vegas vice president of public and government affairs; and Phyllis James, executive vice president and chief diversity officer for MGM Resorts International.
Washington said the grand marshals were selected based on community involvement.
"Steve is our honorary grand marshal because he's really come out of the box," Washington said. "Cox does a lot of things to serve thousands in the community. Patricia Cunningham keeps the community involved and up to date on political and community activities. Gene Collins has been involved with the community baseball league for years and teaches children the skills needed to participate in sports."
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, community volunteer Tyrone Thompson and Serina Choi, NV Licensing Services marketing and business development consultant, are scheduled to serve as judges in the parade.
Groups participating will have three minutes to perform routines and are judged for prizes in 18 categories, such as best school float, best out-of-state drill team and best overall entry.
Immediately following the parade is a new event, the MLK Dream Fest, set to be sponsored by Ward 5 Councilman Ricki Y. Barlow until 6 p.m. at Edmond Town Center on the corner of H Street and Owens Avenue.
The festival will feature a car, truck and motorcycle show, cultural and food vendors, a chili cook-off and more.
Barlow said the purpose behind the MLK Dream Fest is to provide a way for the public to continue celebrating after the parade.
"I wanted to have an opportunity for the community to celebrate and become unified," Barlow said. "I hope the entire community comes out and shows support for all that Dr. King stood for, which is working together."
A candlelight vigil is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King statue on Carey Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Activities are slated to end with the Directions Breakfast, featuring Devin Moore of Vegas Black Think Tank, from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 21 at the Nevada Partners Events Center, 710 W. Lake Mead Blvd.
For more information on King Week events, visit kingweeklasvegas.com.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-4686.