Warner Robins holds 5th annual tribute to King

jgaines@macon.comJanuary 21, 2013 

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. He’d heard plenty of people talking in advance about the event, and Monday was the second consecutive visit for Moses himself.

“I’m glad everyone decided to come out and bring their kids,” he said. “That’s the main thing. The kids are our future, and it’s 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 event’s 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 Obama’s inauguration easily drew as much oratorical attention as King’s legacy, Moses said.

“That’s the main thing that they were talking about,” he said, adding that he particularly enjoyed Mayor Chuck Shaheen’s speech.

Gibson and his wife Cheryl, owners of CK’s 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 King’s 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.

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