For more than 40 years, the Newtown Florist Club has assembled in honor and celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday.
The club will host its 43rd Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at noon on Monday.
More than 400 people are expected to assemble and march in honor of the late civil rights leader who died 44 years ago.
This year’s route has changed because of the amount of people who participate.
Marchers will assemble at noon in the Hall County Health Department’s parking lot on Athens Street. The parade will begin at 1 p.m.
Marchers will hold banners as they follow MLK Jr. Blvd. in Gainesville to Barn Street. From Barn Street, the marchers will follow Jesse Jewell Parkway to Gainesville Middle School on Community Way.
During the assembly, there will be a short program with prayer and singing.
This year’s guest speaker is a former Gainesville pastor, the Rev. Eugene Green. Green is the pastor of Hall Hill Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C.
The theme for this year’s march is “From King to Obama, The Dream Must Live On.”
Andrè Cheek, event organizer, said the march has a special upbeat atmosphere. Diverse people of all ages hold hands and sing throughout the march.
She said it’s a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together to remember a man who fought for social equality and justice.
“To know that at least once a year we do come together to remember and celebrate the many things that Martin Luther King Jr. did to bring light to a dark situation, even with it taking his life,” Cheek said. “For us to continue to appreciate and celebrate what he did so that we could have equal rights. Not just on paper but for it to actually be something we could all experience, that feeling of freedom and respect, that’s important.”
Faye Bush, director of Newtown Florist Club, has been involved with the march since it started. She said it has grown over the years.
“I’ve seen it change (now) that more young people are getting involved and learning more about the work that Dr. King did,” Bush said. “That’s a great success in getting them involved in the program. They’re the ones that are going to carry this along.”
Several local businesses have donated trees in celebration of the event. Some of the club’s youngest members will help to plant and care for the trees in the community.
The Newtown Florist Club has existed for more than 60 years. The group began by donating wreaths for funerals but it has grown to be a strong advocate for social justice in Gainesville.
Bush said the highlight of the event is watching the community come together.
“I enjoy seeing the people come together as one and march together and sing together,” Bush said. “Those are some of the things that he kind of talked about in his lifetime, is bringing the people together as one. I think that we must keep his dream alive.”