- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2007

Low temperatures and snow flurries weren’t exactly what organizers had in mind when they moved the annual Martin Luther King parade in Southeast from January to April.

But the winterlike weather yesterday didn’t hamper the traditional event, which officials and residents said was one of the best in recent memory.

“It was fantastic,” said D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, who hosted the parade. “It was the biggest and best in the parade’s 28-year history, in spite of the cold.”

Mr. Barry canceled the event in January 2005 because of below-freezing temperatures, and organizers last year permanently moved the event from January to April to avoid the cold weather.

The move backfired yesterday, as flurries intermittently fell throughout the morning and temperatures hovered in the mid-30s — about 30 degrees cooler than normal.

Spectators along the parade route — which stretched along Martin Luther King Avenue Southeast, starting at Ballou High School and ending at Good Hope Road — said they weren’t bothered by the temporary return of winter.

Neighborhood resident Edwina Wrighten, 38, attended the parade with her son, nieces and nephews. She said she liked the idea of a warmer parade day — even if it has yet to come.

“We still got hit,” she said, laughing. “But it’s still good that they moved it to April. Even if it was colder, I’d still bring my kids to the parade and tough it out and have a good time.”

A few hundred onlookers danced along with a step team from James Garfield Elementary School and Eastern High School’s marching band. Candy and T-shirts flew from a Salvation Army float as the Anacostia Rollers skated to music blaring from an accompanying van.

“I don’t know about everyone else, but the weather wasn’t a problem for me,” said Carlos Rawlens, 48, who lives on Martin Luther King Avenue and attends the parade every year. “The cold, the rain, the snow, it would’ve been worse in January. So it was a good idea to move it.”

For the third straight year, weather played a factor on parade day.

In January 2005, Mr. Barry canceled the parade the morning of the event, and hundreds of miffed parents and children who showed up for the event were turned away. Mr. Barry said he had the authority to cancel the event as the Ward 8 council member and the parade’s host.

The temperature that day was 26 degrees by the parade’s 1 p.m. start time, and wind chills made it feel like 10 degrees.

Last year, a Barry-appointed committee rescheduled the date for April Fool’s Day, which displeased Mr. Barry. The parade was held April 8, despite torrential downpours that also dampened turnout for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, held the same day.

Mr. Barry yesterday insisted that the move was a “very wise decision” despite the January-esque weather and the fact that above-average temperatures made most of January more like April.

“That’s just God’s will; I don’t worry about that,” he said. “I just put a coat on, that’s all.”

As for the cherry blossoms, National Park Service spokesman Bill Line said the low temperatures and the light dusting of snow that fell early yesterday shouldn’t affect the blossoms, though gusty winds could prove problematic. The annual parade for the blossoms is scheduled for Saturday.

The National Weather Service issued a freeze warning for most of the Mid-Atlantic region until 10 a.m. today, but high temperatures should be back to about 50 today and nearing 60 by the end of the week.


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