Holyfield, three others to lead MLK parade

Published 9:57 am Thursday, January 5, 2017

The city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade is coming back this year with four heavy weight boxers scheduled to serve as grand marshals.

After a one-year hiatus, the parade and a following celebration have been scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, in downtown Vicksburg with boxers Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, James Toney and Ray Mercer participating in the parade portion of the celebration. 

Organizer Sylvester Walker said the parade would take the typical route starting at Belmont Street, going north on Washington Street and ending with a cookout scheduled on the Farmers Market lot at the corner of Grove and Washington streets.

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“There will be barbecue. It will be a very fun event for the community after the parade,” Walker said. “The community is invited, but there is a limited amount of food.”

The hot dogs and hamburgers will be cooked onsite and donated by Walker’s new nonprofit organization Healing the Wounds, which was created to give need assistance, education and façade beautification grants.

“There will be other vendors there (also) to help prepare food for the event,” Walker said. “We’re just going to barbecue right there downtown. It’ll be fun.”

Walker said there will be bouncy houses for the children to enjoy. He is also working with the city to have entertainment and music at the celebration.

“I’m just trying to bring Vicksburg more close together. That’s my focus is to do what Dr. King has drawn me to do — to unite my city and my country and honor his name,” Walker said.

Last year there was no parade for the first time in a decade because of a miscommunication on who would organize the event. Walker said a unity walk was held in its place.

“It got all twisted up, but we were able to get over that hurtle,” Walker said. “It didn’t hurt anything.”

The four parade grand marshals are coming to Vicksburg by way of promotional agent Lawrence Hardge. Hardge, a native of Vicksburg, invited the boxers to come to help Walker, his childhood friend, make the parade a big hit in its return.

“The parade has never had a real large crowd, but this year we’re expecting a very large crowd because of the star power,” Hardge said. “I’m going to make sure personally that I allow the boxers to have an opportunity to meet with the people in the community. I want some of these kids to be able to see these professional boxers, get a chance to touch them, talk to them.”

He said it means a lot to be able to come back to his hometown and do something positive.

The holiday weekend will kick off at Ameristar Casino with a fundraising meet and greet event for ages 21 and up planned with all four boxers from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13.

“We’ll basically have the boxers set up at a table and they can come in and get a picture taken with them or get something signed,” said Chris Chatham, director of casino marketing said. “We’re excited to have a chance to bring them to the property… It’s not often you get to meet four boxers of their caliber in Vicksburg, Mississippi. We’re glad to have them here and to be able to open the doors and invite the community in to meet them.”

Tickets are $10 and a portion of the proceeds will go toward the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Scholarship Breakfast hosted by the Omicron Rho Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at the Vicksburg Convention Center at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16.