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Community Demands Improved Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration in 2014

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Three weeks after Deerfield Beach marked the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a parade and festival, the blow back continues
Initial complaints involved uncertainty about the parade route, and fear that the festival wouldn’t come together. On February 12, resident Diane Chisholm added her voice to the chorus.
“I took a day off from work to participate in the Martin Luther King festivities…,” she told city officials at Tuesday’s commission meeting. “The city let the community down. We are disappointed. We are hurt.”
Those who planned it wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the the 2013 Martin Luther King Day festivities,which came together in just four weeks, were smaller and more haphazard than some residents had hoped.
“Everyone needs to be more aware and needs to be more involved,” conceded District 2 Commissioner Ben Preston, responding to what he described as the many calls he took regarding the affair.
If that transpires next year, it would make the observation a far different event from this year. When planning collapsed the last week of December, just four weeks before drum majorettes were set to prance down Hillsboro Boulevard, the city retained event planner William Penn House and gave him until January 21 to organize food, entertainment, safety arrangements, bands, speakers.
Then the state transportation department, which controls Deerfield Beach’s newest road, complicated things even more. DOT officials said the parade could march the usual route only if it didn't block the intersection of Hillsboro and the the Dixie Flyover. So the parade took a detour from the usual route -- Pioneer Park to Hillsboro Boulevard west to Westside Park. Instead, it moved from Pioneer Park to Eller Street, then to Hillsboro Boulevard and west to Westside Park.
“Whose idea was it to go to the north, not through the community?” asked Chisholm on Tuesday. “I counted 16 police officers, which was the real issue.”
Preston said so many residents called to complain that he met January 23 with Kara Petty and Phil Biscorner, who handles special events for the parks and recreation department, Ryan Wexler of Westside Park and city manager Burgess Hanson.
In the works for next year: contacting schools and churches early enough to involve them in the planning and participation; involving residents in all districts; communicating the invitation better.
“I told the city manager there was some concern about MLK day. I told him I wasn’t happy with the way it was planned and presented itself,” Preston said. “Time wasn’t put into it like it deserves…”
“I’m looking forward to having a spectacular Martin Luther King event next year,” Preston said. “What we learned from this is that everybody needs to be more attentive to the holiday itself: the city [as well as] the community in its entirety,”

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ELIZABETH ROBERTSELIZABETH ROBERTS
Elizabeth Roberts has covered Deerfield Beach, Lighthouse Point and Hillsboro... < More >

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