The 34th annual Plant City Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Arts Festival is almost here.
Each year, the community comes together for a week to celebrate diversity and unity throughout Plant City.
The 34th annual Plant City Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Arts Festival will be held Jan. 11-25 and its lineup of events is one you won’t want to miss. This year, the festival has a new theme and will take a moment to honor those who have served the nation. “A Salute to Those Who Have Served” will act as a military tribute throughout the entire week.
“Dr. King was about inclusiveness for everyone, not just African-Americans,” William Thomas Jr., president of the Improvement League of Plant City, said. “He was out promoting inclusiveness and diversity and we want to make sure that we present that message each year. It’s something that will only benefit Plant City and we believe Dr. King’s message is exactly what you hear everyone talking about wanting for the future of Plant City. We want this to be a place where everyone can live, work and play.”
Several of the volunteers with the Improvement League are military veterans and this year’s theme is one Thomas said they’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. The eight-day celebration kicks off from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 17 at Marshall Middle School. Thomas said the Marshall track will be open to accommodate parking due to the ongoing construction of the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center across the street. The honored guest speaker for the opening ceremony is a local Purple Heart recipient.
The group is doing something new this year by offering a night event in historic downtown. Attendees are going to head to the Corner Store that evening for a night of music and poetry from local artists in the Rhythm & Rhyme event around 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and then around 10:30 p.m. the party is heading a few streets over to Roots Tap Room and Wine Bar for an event called “Diversity Among Friends.”
Early the next morning, the most attended event of the week begins gearing up. The MLK Parade begins at 1 p.m. on Wheeler Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and will travel 1.5 miles up to the MLK Recreation Complex. Immediately following the parade is the MLK Battle of the Bands and then there will be live concerts in the recreation complex for the rest of the night. The MLK Street Fest vendors will open at 11 a.m. and many attendees park themselves along the parade route well before noon to ensure they have their favorite spot.
The majority of the party will be down near the MLK recreation complex, as that is where part two of the celebration takes place, but there will also be quite a crowd near the Bing Rooming House Museum, 205 Allen St. The museum will be open to the public and the bathrooms are open as well for anyone who pops in.
If you’re not a fan of thick crowds, consider camping out near the Plant City Photo Archives & History Center or near Samuel W. Cooper Park by the lake. Thomas said they’re expecting to have several prestigious car and bike clubs participate in the parade this year, so he’s anticipating a large turnout. The Battle of the Bands begins at the Recreation Complex promptly at 3 p.m.
At 7:30 a.m. Jan.19, Plant City native Dr. Bernard Robinson will address the gathered crowd at the HCC Trinkle Center during the annual MLK Leadership Breakfast. It’s a highly anticipated event and seats go fast, but Thomas said a few tickets are still available. You can pick up your tickets at the Bing Museum or by calling Thomas at 813-757-6760 or Rashida Barnum at 863-398-2059 by Jan. 14.
Robinson is a legend in the community. The retired U.S. Army neurosurgeon is known across the globe for the life-saving techiniques he’s developed for brain surgery. He also has made waves with his book “Two Ropes,” which chronicles his struggle toward equality in success.
Those in the community who wish to lend a hand and give back are invited to participate in the annual Day of Community Service on Jan. 20. Groups will meet at the Bing Museum and will then split up to focus on two major projects. One group will stay at the Bing House to work on repairs and the other will head to the Glover School to work on modifications there. The groups will work from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Thomas said their hard work will be on display mere weeks later.
“The reason why we are focusing on those two projects is two weeks after the community service day Plant City will be hosting a statewide museum club, the Florida African-American Heritage Preservation Network.”
The conference will be hosted in town at the two locations so Thomas said it’s crucial they be in tip-top shape.
The week will wrap up with a health fair at Mt. Olive Baptist Church, 604 Ball St., on Jan. 25. The event has grown each year and Thomas said its important the local community take a moment to focus on their health. There will be more than 20 vendors and representatives from Moffitt Cancer Center, cooking experts with live demonstrations on healthy eating and health care professionals offering free diagnoses will all be on site.
Calendar of Events
Friday January 17, 2020
MLK Opening Ceremony: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
@ Marshall Middle School, 18 S. Maryland Ave.
Diversity Among Friends: 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
@ Roots Tap Room and Wine Bar, 101 S. Evers St.
Saturday January 18, 2020
MLK Street Fest Vendors: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
MLK Parade: 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. through historic downtown
MLK Battle of the Bands: 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Concerts: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The above noted activities will be held at the Plant City MLK
Sunday January 19, 2020
MLK Leadership Breakfast: 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
@ HCC Trinkle Center, 1206 N. Park Road
MLK Gospel Fest: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
@ Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, 911 E. Warren St.
Monday January 20, 2020
Day of Community Service: Community Service Projects
7 a.m. to 1 p.m. @ Bing House & Glover School
Saturday January 25, 2020
Board Walk To A Better Health Fair: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
@ Mt. Olive Baptist Church, 604 W. Ball St.