As Kilgore’s second annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration approaches Jan. 15, organizers from Kilgore Men of Alliance remain focused on building community throughout the experience.
In the spirit of the day, “Give people opportunities to come out and experience other people,” says KMA leader and Kilgore City Council member Victor Boyd, excited for a group meal set this year.
The event’s planners have bolstered their original concept with more attractions for 2018 – food trucks, bounce houses and more – in addition to reviving 2017’s successful elements in order to grow the MLK Day celebration, drawing people from across the community to Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Put simply, “We want to bring people across the tracks,” Boyd said, “and show them that side of the town is also a great place to live and to have a good time.
“We want everybody to be welcome in each other’s neighborhoods. You open up the door for people to come over.”
Kilgore Men of Alliance members aim to be mentors to the youth of the city and to inspire unity throughout the community.
Their second annual event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day begins with a 10 a.m. unity walk down MLK Boulevard. Participants will begin lining up at 9 a.m. at the Rev. Alvin R. Mayfield’s West Side Barber Shop at 513 MLK Blvd. The march will take the crowd from the barbershop to Martin Luther King Jr. Park where, weather permitting, KMA will host a short outdoor ceremony before kicking off a come-and-go celebration and lunch.
It’s reminiscent of plans for last year’s event that were, by necessity, modified at the last minute when wet winter weather refused to cooperate.
Organizers were pleased with 2017’s inaugural festivities overall, Boyd allowed, but the forecast was beyond their control: rain drenched parade participants and forced the remainder of the event indoors at First Baptist Church of Kilgore.
Nevertheless, “Everybody had a good time,” he said. “We’re looking for about the same this year.
“At this point, everything is going to be planned for the park. In the event of inclement weather, we’ll end up at a church.”
Either way, there will be some tweaks from last year’s lineup, Boyd noted: after hours of performances in January 2017, the day’s entertainment for 2018 will be shorter, just three acts including soloist Brian Bittick, the return of the Bus 21 Choir and a piece by Kilgore High School Voices of Soul.
Last year, Kilgore Men of Alliance recognized the Rev. Alvin Mayfield and others for their contributions to Kilgore – six honorees are on tap during the second annual event Jan. 15.
They’re people who have put teaching or the community before themselves,” Boyd said, “People who have done things in the community they should be recognized for.
“At the end of the ceremony we will have a tribute to Paul Gill and to Waylon Hunt,” two KMA members who died in the past year.
After the day’s entertainment and recognitions, the crowd will be turned loose to enjoy the park and a trio of food trucks recruited for the festivities. Visitors can purchase a meal from Big Daddy’s, Streetlicious or The Rolling Hunger as they enjoy MLK Day together.
“This is one of the biggest additions,” Boyd said: “We want the people of Kilgore to come out and do food together. We think it’s going to be a great asset it people come out and take advantage of it.”
There will also be bounce houses for children plus snowcones.
Everybody’s invited, Boyd said. Everybody’s welcome: come to the park, be a part of the march, join a community embracing its diversity.
“We’re not where we were 50 years ago,” he added. “It’s a better place. It’s a better time. Everybody’s of one accord and working toward it.
“It’s a good time to celebrate that.”
KMA is offering commemorative t-shirts as a fundraiser for local activities. Submit an order online through the “Kilgore Men of Alliance” Facebook page or by calling Boyd at 903-576-5313.