By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Monday’s after-parade program, an extension of a weekend that featured numerous observances in honor of slain Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., didn’t go exactly as planned. But, despite having to establish a new program on the fly and to deal with an uncooperative sound system, things went smoothly and quickly.
More than 150 people, from babies in the arms of their mothers to seniors who used canes or walkers to navigate the spongy turf of Atmore’s Houston Avery Park, crammed into the municipal greenspace for the annual program. Thick smoke carried the smell of cooking meat across the area.
As a long line of parade entrants, along with dozens of personal vehicles that fell in behind the parade as it passed, pulled into the park, Escambia County Commissioner Karean Reynolds arrived to continue an almost lifelong tradition.
“I’ve been coming to this program just about every time I had a chance since I was a kid,” said Reynolds, who was the event’s keynote speaker last year and would, unknowingly at the time, fill that same position this year. “I remember the first one — it was maybe 1985 or 1986, when I was in kindergarten — when everybody walked, there weren’t any cars in the parade. This program is symbolic to our community; it’s important that we support it.”
Sandra Gray, president of Concerned Citizens of Atmore, was supposed to be running the show at the park, but a medical emergency involving her son pulled her away at the last minute. Reynolds was asked to take over, and he did.
The microphone came and went as the speakers address the crowd.
“There has been a brief change to our program today, and we’re going to adjust accordingly,” he told the crowd. “One of the things I want to talk about is unity. We’ve got to get together and take care of our own community. If you’re waiting for someone else to come in and fix things, you’re going to be waiting a long time.”
After LaShonda Marshall’s Expose’ Pearls of Ivy dance troupe led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Whitney Houston’s recorded version of the National Anthem was played, the event’s keynote speaker, Harold “Boo” Dailey, pressed into duty at the last minute, addressed the crowd.
“This was sort of sprung on me,” he started. “But I was a Boy Scout. Meatball Frye, my Scoutmaster, and this has stuck with me, to always be prepared. Well, I’m up here unprepared, but I have got to do it anyway.”
He used a flock of geese as a metaphor in speaking of the importance of unity, pointing out that some people might refer to an indecisive person as “bird-brained.”
“If you look up in the winter, you’ll see Canadian geese flying south for the winter,” he said. “You will never see one flying alone; they fly together, in the shape of a vee. If you could follow them long enough, you would see that the lead bird will fly back to the end when wind resistance makes it tired, and another one takes the lead.”
The noted educator talked of community leaders who are former students of his, then stressed the need for positive reinforcement in a person’s everyday dealings with others.
“If you have a chance to create a positive thought in somebody’s head, never mind the inconvenience, go ahead and say what needs to be said,” he said. “If someone tells you, ‘I am more than you,’ turn away because you are listening to a fool.
“One thing that will remain certain as long as we breathe is that one percent of anything is worth more than 100 percent of nothing. If you get a chance to do something for somebody, do it without thinking about what’s going to be done for you.”
Most of the attendees seemed satisfied with the program, despite its impromptu organization.
“I thought it went really well, especially with them having to do everything as they went,” said Russell Robinson. “It was a good program.”
Marshall’s dance group performed a rousing routine that brought the program to an end, then those who wanted to, went to Atmore Municipal Airport for free plane rides, courtesy of a Montgomery pilot.