MOUNT OLIVE -- Superior Court Judge Carl Fox was out walking in his hometown Saturday afternoon -- just like he did growing up there.

Well, maybe it was a little different.

He was walking down the middle of Breazeale Avenue that was packed on both sides with spectators who had turned out for the Unity Organization's 10th annual Black History Parade.

Fox, who was grand marshal, decided to walk instead of ride down the parade route, waving and often stopping to shake hands and get hugs from his hometown crowd.

Fox had been invited to serve as grand marshal previously, but until this year had been unable to do so.

"But this year, I said I am going to do it. It is quite an honor," said Fox as he walked down the street. "It is an honor to be invited and I am thrilled to be here.

Fox, senior resident superior court judge for District 15B that includes Orange and Chatham counties, is a graduate of Southern Wayne High School, Dudley.

His parents, Carl L. and Rachel D. Fox taught at Carver High School for many years. Fox taught agriculture, and Mrs. Fox taught home economics.

Fox, 63, received his bachelor's degree in English in 1975 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his law degree in 1978, also from UNC at Chapel Hill.

He served as assistant district attorney for District 15B from 1978 to 1984 before being appointed district attorney for the district on Dec. 28, 1984.

Fox was elected in November 1986 and re-elected in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002.

He was appointed to the court by former Gov. Mike Easley in January 2006 and won election in November 2014. Superior Court judges serve eight-year terms.

More than 100 units including bands, floats, cars, military units and walkers started at Talton Avenue and followed Breazeale Avenue south to the Carver Cultural Center, the former Carver High School, where the parade disbanded.

Vendors offering food and arts and crafts dotted the parade route as well.

A Wilmington area band had the crowd jumping with a selection of classic rock and roll and soul music.

Skies were partly cloudy with a temperature in the upper 70s.

Many of the people in the parade tossed out handful after handful of candy to the delight of the many children, and some adults as well. Many brought plastic bags or other containers to fill with the treats.

The Rev. Timothy Dortch of Goldsboro read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Earnestine Oates broke into applause as Dortch finished his comments.

She did it, she said, to get others to applaud.

Oates said she wanted to give praise for what has been accomplished by and for African-Americans.

"So from where we came from and where we are today, they ought to be up there clapping and let them know they appreciate it," she said. "It was like they were asleep or in a daze or something."

Oates said she had been impressed by Dortch's delivery of King's historic speech.

She has been to all 10 of the parades. Oates is the mother of Sheila Oates, one of the founders of the Unity Organization and its Black History Parade that is held in February to mark Black History Month.

"She and Vicky (Darden) are the ones who started the Black History Parade," she said. "I'm real proud of her -- yes I am.

"I think this is very important, very important, because our children don't know anything about back then in those days when we coming up. I thank God for where He has brought us up until today."

Oates has a message for those who missed the parade.

"You should show up and show out and help support it," she said.

Brittany Massey of Grantham, her daughter Olivia, 4, and her cousin Lance McLeod, were playing in Westbrook Park when they found out about the parade.

Olivia sat in her mother's lap while Lance was dancing to the music from the band across Breazeale Avenue.

They come to the park often, but it was the first time they had been to the parade.

"We are looking forward to the parade," she said.

Four-year-old Zakiya Simmons was sitting on her grandfather Leon Drake's shoulders as she listened to the band.

"We just love the scenery and wanted to see what the people have got going on," he said. "We have ate a little food. My grandbaby here wants to get on my back and ride.

"I think it is gorgeous. The crowd is nice. It is a pretty day for it."

But while the music and food were good, there is an important message behind the event, especially for Zakiya, Drake said.

"Little children need to see what folks are doing," he said. "Every time they have one, I come to it, and I bring my grandbaby also, the whole family."

Drake said he had about 10 relatives with him.