Big crowd turns out for MLK parade thanks to warm weather
BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
5/18/12 at 8:03 AM
Short-sleeve weather Monday brought one of the biggest turnouts in memory for Tulsa's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, an event more often associated with heavy coats and gloves.
As temperatures reached the low 70s, crowds lined the mile-long route from Oklahoma State University-Tulsa through the Greenwood District, ending at ONEOK Field.
"You couldn't have dreamed of a better day for a parade," said Marcus Leer, who usually brings a thermos of coffee but this year was sipping iced tea.
"It's more like May than January."
After several fights marred the 2010 event, organizers shortened the parade route this year to allow police to keep a closer eye on the spectators.
The shorter route also had the effect of condensing the crowd, eliminating gaps where the number of people had grown sparse in past years.
This year, spectators stood shoulder-to-shoulder most of the way and several people deep along stretches of Greenwood Avenue.
The unseasonably warm temperatures - more than 20 degrees above average for January - created a festival-like atmosphere, with crowds spreading out across the green lawns at OSU-Tulsa.
Some threw Frisbees. Others stretched out on the grass, lingering after the parade ended.
"I can remember one parade where it was so cold that we sat in our car and watched from a parking lot," said Michael Gonzalez, who was picnicking with his wife and two daughters.
"I don't think I've ever seen a bigger crowd for MLK."
With more than 200 entries - including marching bands, color guards, corporate floats and government agencies - the number of people in the parade might have matched the number watching.
It took more than 2 1/2 hours for everyone to finish the route.
Police intervened in one brief fight near OSU's North Hall, but no arrests were made, officials said.
"I've been out here when it's 17 degrees and the wind is blowing," Police Capt. Steve Odom said. "Today, everybody was just enjoying it."
Tuesday's weather will seem more normal for this time of year, with a high in the low 40s.
Original Print Headline: Fine day for parade
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Booker T. Washington students Marcellus Wilson (left), Selma Drake and Collin Caesar play a tune as the band moves through the Greenwood District during the Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Tulsa on Monday. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Delores Gay gets a hug from a member of the crowd as she participates in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Tulsa on Monday. JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World
Members of the Girl Scouts chant Monday during a parade in Tulsa to honor slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Dancers make their way down Greenwood Avenue during the Martin Luther King Jr. parade Monday. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World