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Saturday’s event marks 25th anniversary
From Staff Reports
County residents and visitors from across the state and country will converge on the Knobtown Community this weekend for the annual Black History Parade and Celebration.
Saturday will mark the 25th anniversary of the event, which began in 1994 when the congregation of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church and residents in Knobtown set out to educate their friends and neighbors about the great contributions of black Americans through the years.
The small community had big plans for recognizing black history, and throughout the years, the once small event has turned into a yearly grand affair, which has been described as a big family reunion and Mardis Gras parade mixed into one. Knobtown has gained recognition for the parade and activities that combine for a phenomenal area event that brings in thousands of spectators each year.
Volunteer Joyce Johnson looks forward to seeing the masses for the weekends’ events. Her father, Oliver Walley, was one of the driving forces to start the event and she has been involved in some fashion ever since.
“We started having a week of black history education and then celebrated on the following Saturday,” Johnson said. “There were only three or four cars in the first parade. Now we have hundreds of participants that stretch for miles.”
Each year, local residents and people from around the country attend the parade. Folks gather along the 6-mile parade route with their grills and coolers. Memories are shared and new ones are made among the smiles and fellowship and food that accompany the parade.
This year’s parade theme is “Drink. Stand. Grow.” Organizers say the theme is centered around the thirst for knowledge, being educated and using that knowledge.
Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church encourages those in the community and those that are here for the parade to learn about the black Americans that helped shape and grow our country. The church hosted several nights of educational opportunities leading up to the parade and has events planned for 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Dist. 2 Supervisor Morris Hill welcomes the event to his district. This year will be the first time that an official “Meet and Greet” takes place as Hill has planned a fish fry and mingle from noon until 8 p.m. on the Friday before the parade. Hill, the first African American elected to the Greene County Board of Supervisors, represents the Knobtown and State Line areas and served on the county’s governing board for the past six terms.
“It’s been a huge success and, praise God, without incident these past 24 years,” Hill said of the event. “We have at least 5,000 visitors each year, and I believe there have been some years when we attracted as many as 10,000 people. I base that on helicopter photographs that capture the size of the crowds.”
Hill says the parade attracts more than just members of the black community as a significant number of Caucasians and Hispanics also attend.
“That’s because all people are made to feel welcome,” he said.
Like many others around the parade route, Hill sets up a barbecue grill and feeds friends and colleagues on the morning of the parade. It’s his time of year to show hospitality to local volunteers, to fellow members of the Board of Supervisors, to other elected officials and to law enforcement.
“The weekend and the parade are like a reunion,” Hill added. “Locals come, but there are lots of people from New York, Illinois, Missouri and from all over the country who plan their trip home for this event instead of Fourth of July or some other holiday.”
“What makes people come is fellowship – it’s totally about fellowship.”
Registration and lineup for the parade ends at 10 a.m.
Saturday parade-goers are encouraged to arrive early and be patient as traffic is expected to be heavy. Due to this, officials will contraflow traffic along the parade route beginning at 11 a.m.
Line-up and registration for the parade should be completed by 10:00 a.m.
More information about the parade can be found via Facebook on a page titled “Black History Parade Knobtown” or by calling Johnson at (601)410-0012.
Editor’s Note: award winning journalist Nancy Jo Maples, of Lucedale, contributed to this report.