Crowd turns out in Elizabethtown for MLK Parade

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — The chilly temperature had spectators bundling up, but it didn’t prevent droves of people from enjoying a parade in downtown Elizabethtown on Monday.

Clad in scarves, heavy coats, hats, gloves, and boots and armed with blankets and hot beverages, hundreds of people lined West Broad and Poplar streets to witness the annual Martin Luther King Day Parade.

“This is great for the community,” said spectator Dyana Crenshaw, holding the mittened hands of her two children. “Our kids need to see people from their community that are leaders.”

Though the temperatures didn’t keep people from turning out, they did affect where the crowd was and how long they stayed. Crenshaw ended up departing early, stating it was “too cold for these babies of mine.” Other bystanders — or, more accurately, bysitters — witnessed the parade from the confines of their running, warm vehicles.

Hundreds of dance troupes, drill teams, ROTC and cheerleading groups, pageant kings and queens, elected officials, church groups, civic organizations, businesses, and performers made their way from the Municipal Building on West Broad Street to the intersection with U.S. 701. After turning right onto Poplar, the participants made their way to the Fresh Foods parking lot.

The highlight for many of the guests, especially those on Poplar Street, seemed to be a party company. Dressed in cartoon character costumes, paraders interacted with guests and got into impromptu dance-offs with onlookers, turning the street into a party scene. Vying for the best video shot, bystanders spilled into the street, blocking the parade from moving while they recorded the festivities. One parade participant with the company was seen at multiple points along the parade route doing aerial flips from the top of the moving vehicle. When he stood atop the van in front of the crowd on Poplar, police ordered him down, as well as the crowd back, resulting in a chorus of “booo”s from bystanders.

“There ain’t no violence, there ain’t no cussin’ (sic). Every time we want to have fun, they gotta stop it,” said the parade entrant over the loudspeaker.

The crowd parted for the parade, which continued without incident.

Throughout the 1½-hour long promenade, most entries complied with Elizabethtown’s new ordinance prohibiting candy from being thrown by parade participants. The end result was that, while guests may not have received an abundance of candy, what they did get were bigger treats. Walking along the route, participants handed out things like lip balm, candy apples, and bags of chocolates.

“I don’t think not being able to throw candy has affected anything,” said bystander Michael Munn. “It’s not about the candy anyway — it’s about having fun.”

There may still be a few kinks to work out, however. Walkers passing out candy meant every now and again they had to stop the moving vehicle in order to replenish their stash, resulting in multiple long parade delays.

“I think they’re going to have to revisit that ordinance,” said one bystander who wanted to remain anonymous. “Now instead of kids running out in the street, you’ve got them running right up to the vehicle.”

The onlooker referenced one community leader, who, from the float on which he was riding, was encouraging the crowd to come up to the car and get candy.

“All we’re trying to do is keep people safe,” said Sgt. Davis with the Elizabethtown Police Department.

After the parade, many onlookers and parade participants departed for the Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy campus, where they closed out the weekend-long activities with a buffet and fellowship.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing ccarroll@bladenjournal.com.

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Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal