02/20/11 — Mount Olive set for Black History Parade

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Mount Olive set for Black History Parade

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 20, 2011 1:50 AM

Having watched their event grow over the last two year, organizers of the Mount Olive Black History Parade say they are expecting this year to be even bigger and better.

Members of the Unity Group, which is putting on the parade and day-long celebration for the third year in a row Saturday. say they think the reason for their event's popularity is simple -- it brings people together.

"Our theme this year is 'Remembering the Past, Yet Moving Forward,'" said organizer Sheila Oates. "We are living the reality of Martin Luther King's dream. We had the vision in 2008, and now we're living in the reality of that."

She explained that she, Vickie Darden and others had the idea of the parade in 2008 after realizing that Black History Month, though a meant to be a celebration, had no local central celebratory event. And so, she said, what better way to celebrate than with a parade.

"We have Christmas parades, Veteran's Day parades -- we celebrate special events with parades. But Black History Month had never been celebrated with a parade," Ms. Oates said. "So why not have everybody come celebrate together. This parade is about everybody, because that's what Martin Luther King's dream was about -- that we all come together. That's why we're celebrating the positive and the future."

The first year, she said, they had 150 entries and about 3,000 people attending. Last year, they had 225 entries and about 4,000 people attending. This year, she promised "many more" entries and hopefully many more people attending.

"As more people have heard about it, it's drawn more people, and this year will be even bigger and better. We're just praying for good weather," Mrs. Oates said.

New this year, she said, will be the presence of marching bands from Spring Creek High School, Southern Wayne High School, Eastern Wayne High School and Goldsboro High School - all of which will be performing after the parade in the Carver Cultural Center gym.

She also said the popular Wells Fargo stagecoach would be returning.

Other new features will be a car show, sponsored by the Eastern Carolina Corvette Club following the parade at Bobby Denning Furniture, which will last all day. Also at the show will be a mini, remote controlled stock car racing game for people to enjoy.

Additionally, Mrs. Oates said, food and other vendors are expected to line the parade route, which will run down Breazeale Avenue, and be at the car show as well.

The parade this year will begin at 1 p.m., with lineup at 11:30 a.m. State NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William Barber III will serve as marshal, while Mount Olive native and former Olympic handballer Sam Jones will serve as grand marshal.

Additionally, Mrs. Oates said, they are taking the special step of dedicating the parade to Ora Truzy.

"To us, she is our Rosa Parks," Mrs. Oates said. "She really helped us get this off the ground and going forward."

And while it's too late for entries, parade officials are still looking for area pastors to march. If any are interested they can call 299-4158.

Additionally, organizers said, because they do not charge an entry fee to participate, they are accepting donations to offset the costs of organizing the parade. Anyone interested in donating can call Vickie Darden at 658-3961, Rick Faire at 344-9949 or Sheila Oates at 635-3376.

Mrs. Oates and Mrs. Darden also announced the winner of the raffle -- a dinner for two at either Logan's or Texas Steakhouse -- that was held to help raise money for the parade. And the winner was Toni Morant of Mount Olive.

"We just want to thank everybody for their participation and support," Mrs. Oates said.

The Unity Group's other main project for the year is its annual Sunday in the Park, held the second Sunday in September. This year will be its fourth such event. It, too, Mrs. Oates said, is just an opportunity for people to slow down and come together and enjoy some fellowship.