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July 26, 2014

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Obama a part of unity message at downtown MLK parade

Parade-goers say president-elect helps make this year’s event special

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Justin M. Bowen

The 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Las Vegas makes its way down Fourth Street passing the Fremont Street Experience.

Martin Luther King Jr. Parade

The 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Las Vegas Monday made its way down Fourth Street passing the Fremont Street Experience. Launch slideshow »

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Celebration was the unofficial theme of Las Vegas' 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade Monday as dancers and floats made their way down the parade route and crowds of people, many donning Barack Obama T-shirts, cheered them on.

"Living the Dream: For One America" was the official theme for this year's parade, which traveled along Fourth Street and ended at Ogden Avenue.

One parade attendee, lifelong Las Vegas resident Kayla Ennis, sporting an Obama T-shirt and hat, said she and her family try to sit in the same spot at the parade every year.

"We get snacks, an ice chest (and) everybody comes," she said. "We try to sit in the same area every time because we know if we stay by the booth, we'll have a really good show."

Participating in Las Vegas events and the feeling of "unity" at the King parade are what brings her back year after year, she said.

"This year is really more important than any of the parades because of Barack. That's a big hurdle and it's a step in hopefully the right direction," Ennis said.

The buzz over Tuesday's inauguration of Obama as the nation's 44th president permeated the crowd.

"Right at the beginning of the parade I heard people saying, 'We've overcome' and, 'Yes, we did' instead of, 'Yes, we can.' It's 'Yes, we did,'" Las Vegas resident Jarrett Miner said. "It's exciting; it's neat to see everyone get so wound up about it. I hope it continues, I feel the energy.

"There are a lot of people who are proud today."

Wendell P. Williams, the parade's founder and president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Las Vegas, said the idea of a unified country was why he started the parade 27 years ago.

"When I moved to Las Vegas in 1977, on Dr. King's birthday there was no mention, there were no activities and with Dr. King being such a world leader and such a human rights leader and what he's done for our nation, I just thought he should be commemorated," he said.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born Jan. 15, 1929. The federal holiday was first celebrated in 1986.

Williams said the parade has grown tremendously since its first year, when it had only 13 entries.

Now, he said, it's Las Vegas' largest parade with at least 300 entries and has the highest attendance of any parade in the city.

"Seeing all the people enjoying themselves, it's meant for the children, just everything about it," he said. "Seeing it grow and the participation, words cannot express how I feel about it. I love it."

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