DOWNTOWN – Scores of spectators lined up Sunday along both sides of Market Street downtown to get an eye- and earful of the highly anticipated 109th Annie Malone May Day Parade.
By all accounts, the performance-powered parade and march was a hit. There was no major violence and, with the exception of one brief shower, no rain. Those are two things that the parade has come to be associated with over the years.
“Hey man, no violence and no rain,” Mark Williams said to a food vendor who complained that he had made more money last year when he was allowed to set up in Kiener Plaza.
“Yeah, when you say that, it makes it well worth it,” responded Jeff Jones, whose food cart was set up on the fringe of the heavy foot traffic.
Another vendor, Temona Williams, set up closer to the action.
“I always do pretty good here,” Williams said. She sold turkey legs, hot dogs, cotton candy and nachos.
Williams, a member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, said she was biased about her favorite part of the parade, as she waited for her sorority sisters to march past her booth.
Also marching were fraternities including Omega Psi Phi (Q-Dogs), Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi. The Kappas wowed the crowd with their slow-jamming dance moves.
Firefighters stepped off their truck and showed off their own dance skills as they joined in the street fun.
The parade’s general chair, Gary Boyd, host of local TV show “Them Yo People,” hardly stayed in his seat, humorously commenting on and dancing with performers as they stopped at the parade’s judges and VIP stage.
The best performances came from school bands, some accompanied by dancing and high-kicking drill teams, cheerleaders or majorettes. Some band members performed their own dance moves.
“I like seeing the little kids perform and show their skills,” said Sparkle Odom, who drove up from Sikeston, Mo.
She added that she liked the excitement that has come with the growth of the event in recent years.
“It outgrew the neighborhood,” she said regarding the parade’s move in 2006 from the Greater Ville to downtown.
“You get hip-hop and African dance, all we have to offer, and I learn a lot about different businesses, campaigns and hairstylists.”
Countless businesses, radio stations, and other organizations paraded floats, fancy cars and big trucks. Music was blaring as members smiled and waved at the crowd.
Paraders and vendors all paid to be a part of the show, and all that money goes to the Annie Malone Children’s and Family Services Center.
Child clients of Annie Malone’s rolled through in limousines.
“This is what it’s for,” said parade emcee Patricia Washington, vice president of development and external affairs. “This is first class,” she said of the limousines. “And this is how we care for families. First class.”
The center opened in 1888 as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home under the leadership of Sara Newton Cohron.
“(Cohron) was upset that African-American orphans were not being taken care of in the city of St. Louis, and 130 years later, we are still loving and taking care of families.”