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King Day crowd hails slain civil rights leader

Even on a rainy day, everybody loves a parade.

But not everybody is willing to brave the elements to see one in person.

Crowds were noticeably smaller at this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in downtown Las Vegas on a soggy Monday morning.

Blame it on the sporadic sprinkles, dark skies and chilly temperatures.

Still, thousands of spectators clad in winter coats and clutching umbrellas lined Fourth Street to watch the 28th annual parade in honor of the slain civil rights activist.

The roughly three-hour parade from Hoover to Ogden avenues had all the standards: marching bands, pint-sized cheerleaders, police cruisers, and street vendors hawking balloons, cotton candy and plastic horns.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, sporting a trench coat and matching hat, sat atop an antique firetruck.

The dreary weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of most parade watchers.

“This is wonderful,” said Roseann Beach, a 60-year-old visitor from Michigan who arrived early to get a good spot from which to watch her granddaughter march in the parade.

The weather was nothing to Beach.

“This is like summer in Michigan,” she said.

The parade’s theme was “Living the Dream: Saluting Community Leaders.” Judge Karen Bennett-Haron and Anthony Gladney, vice president of national diversity relations for Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., served as grand marshals.

The number one reason for attending the parade despite less-than-ideal conditions, based on a thoroughly unscientific survey by the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “My kid’s in the parade.”

The number two reason: “To honor King’s legacy and/or teach my kids about their heritage.”

Both applied to Stacey White, who had scored a dry spot beneath an awning near Fremont Street.

White’s 12-year-old son, who plays the bassoon, was appearing in the parade along with band mates from Sedway Middle School.

White, who was sitting in a camping chair and snuggled under a thick blanket, said she would have attended anyway so that her two sons — the younger boy is 10 years old — could learn to appreciate the struggles others, such as King, went through so they could have more opportunities.

King “was the reason African-Americans have advanced,” White said. “He’s the reason we can have an African-American president.”

Another inspirational reason for attending the parade despite bad weather: “Jesus brought us here.”

So said a tiny woman wrapped in an enormous parka near Clark Avenue. The woman, who wouldn’t give her name, said she has attended nearly every local Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade since graduating from Rancho High School almost two decades ago.

“Rain, sleet or snow can’t keep me away,” she said. “It’s a black thing.”

Not far up the street at Carson Avenue, Paulette Wright, sitting with her daughter beneath a giant umbrella, was nursing a mood as gloomy as the skies.

She had been excited about attending the morning’s parade until she and her daughter stepped out of their car and were accosted by a homeless man, who referred to them using a racial slur.

“I’m 54 years old and have never been called that,” said Wright, a postal worker. “We’ve come a long way because of him (King), but we still have a long way to go.”

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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