ORLANDO – Watching the marching bands, floats and scores of excited children moving past him along the parade route, Orlando City Commissioner Samuel B. Ings smiled when he was asked how long it had taken the Washington Shores neighborhood to put together such a huge and impressive celebration event.
Ings snapped his fingers and said, “Like that!”
On Saturday, the first ever Washington Shores Community Christmas Parade and Celebration got off without a hitch and attracted a huge crowd that watched the parade route along Goldwyn Avenue.
Hosted by The Hope Church, the parade began at the James R. Smith Center, then continued to Hankins Park, where there was a celebration with entertainment, food and a toy giveaway for neighborhood children and families.
And it was something that not only motivated the entire neighborhood to get involved and back up the Hope Church’s efforts, Ings said, but – as anyone could plainly see from the overflow crowd that showed up to watch the parade – an event that brought everyone living in this area together as well.
“We’ve done parades before, so it was a matter of getting the churches and the community together for a Christmas celebration,” Ings said.
It was also a way to show the African American residents of Washington Shores that they have good reason to be proud of where they live, Ings said.
“When you do it for the black community, that’s the message you send, that you care about them,” Ings said.
The parade began at 10 a.m. this morning, and was so well done that the entire effort truly did impress neighborhood activist Mary Maxwell.
“Excellent, excellent, and so well organized,” she said of the lengthy parade.
In fact, Maxwell said she was so pleased with the parade that she now has a new goal: to ensure the community does it again in December 2012 – and every year after that.
“We were just talking that this should be an annual parade,” Maxwell said. “This is an excellent turnout for the first one.”
Howard Flute took park in the parade, marching with the kids he supervises as part of the Young Blacks in Action Community Band and Dancettes Inc., a non-profit organization that works to instill strong work ethics in children, and to teach them the value of hard work.
They also know how to strike up the band during a parade, Flute added.
“This is our first parade,” he said. “We are one of the original neighborhood bands, and have been around since 1979.”
He agreed with Maxwell that an event like this can lift a neighborhood’s spirits, and make them feel good about where they live.
“You can tell from the turnout, everybody needed a Christmas parade as a celebration,” Flute said.
And he said everyone in Orlando should expect to see it come back a year from now.
“This is now an annual event,” Flute said.
Orlando City Commissioner Phil Diamond marched in the parade, and had a lot of praise for what the community was able to organize, and so quickly.
“I love it,” Diamond said. “This is a terrific event. It’s great to see the community come together and work together as a neighborhood. I think that’s a really good thing. It’s a great way for people to work together.”
Ings agreed, said a lot of the credit goes to Hope Church and the people who came up with this idea, and then worked so tirelessly to make it a reality.
“This is a great event,” he said. “This is amazing, and I knew this would happen. It’s all a part of building a legacy and history for the whole neighborhood.”
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