WARNER ROBINS -- As President Barack Obama was publicly sworn in for a second term in Washington, D.C., with many ceremonial references to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., hundreds of people jammed the Northgate Plaza parking lot in Warner Robins for the 5th annual I Have a Dream Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration.
Charles Moses came alone to the Davis Drive gathering, but saw several friends there. Hed heard plenty of people talking in advance about the event, and Monday was the second consecutive visit for Moses himself.
Im glad everyone decided to come out and bring their kids, he said. Thats the main thing. The kids are our future, and its good to get them involved in something positive.
The milling crowd was mainly families with children, drawn by inflatable attractions, balloon animals, thumping music and free food.
Moses praised Edward K. Gibson, one of the events organizers, for putting together a good day for the community.
Ministers, local political figures and representatives of co-sponsor Warner Robins Masonic Lodge 207 addressed the crowd, and Obamas inauguration easily drew as much oratorical attention as Kings legacy, Moses said.
Thats the main thing that they were talking about, he said, adding that he particularly enjoyed Mayor Chuck Shaheens speech.
Gibson and his wife Cheryl, owners of CKs Club & Lounge in Northgate Plaza, partnered with the lodge and 25 other people or businesses.
We give back to the community, Gibson said. I would like to revitalize this area over here, if I could.
About half the storefronts in the North Davis Drive shopping center are empty, but the lot overflowed with cars and people Monday.
Last year we had about 1,100, Gibson said, and this year probably attracted as many or more.
He thanked people for turning out to celebrate Kings work, saying he was filled with joy to see community members having a good time together.
The scene was cheerful but hectic as people lined up throughout the afternoon for hot dogs and fried fish while children waited eagerly for a turn on the inflatables.
The event ran from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., but by 3 p.m. Martha George had seen plenty. She had been to previous commemorations of King at her church, but her first visit to the I Have a Dream celebration was just for fun, she said.
George brought her four grandchildren, but within two hours she was tired of standing while they enjoyed the attractions.
That was about the only downside to the day, which boasted clear and temperate weather: so many people drawn together for history, to the same fun, an overabundance of success.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.