By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Muskogee will have more and bigger events this year to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Festivities will stretch over five days, from Jan. 17 to 21. This year’s events also include a salute to rhythm and blues artists as well as the showing of a PBS film featuring scenes from earlier Muskogee cook-offs.
“Soul Food Junkies,” part of PBS’ “Independent Lens” series, will be shown at 7 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Roxy, said Cassandra Gaines, cook-off coordinator. In the movie, filmmaker Brian Hurt explores how soul food has been a culinary tradition passed through the generations and how eating too much soul food could contribute to obesity and other health issues.
“Brian Hurt went all over the U.S., and he went to our cook-off in 2011 and talked to people,” Gaines said. “If you look at the clips, you’ll see a lady in a bonnet. That’s from the Muskogee arena, and he talked to me.”
Area performers will pay tribute to rhythm and blues greats with the Rhythm and Blues Yearbook, set for 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Roxy Theatre.
“It will be just like a yearbook, with ‘most popular’ or ‘most likely to succeed,’” said Starr Fisher, who is putting the show together.
The show will pay tribute to top pop, rock and rhythm and blues singers from the 1960s through the 1980s, including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, the Eurythmics and KC and the Sunshine Band.
Admission is $10, Fisher said.
“But we’re suggesting you get your tickets early because we’re anticipating a sell-out,” she said.
Visitors can taste some of that soul food at the annual cook-off at noon Jan. 19.
Gaines said she couldn’t estimate the expected turnout. She said last year’s cook-off drew 10 contestants with a total of 100 entries. Entries can be submitted in the categories of meats, desserts, vegetables, breads and miscellaneous, and the best meat entry will win $1,000, she said.
“And we’ve got some NFL players coming in to be judges,” she said.
Joe Horn, a former wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, has confirmed he will be a judge, said Greg Tolliver, who handles marketing for Bayou 87 BBQ Sauce, which Horn’s company makes.
Debra Mitchell said she enters almost every year and plans to enter again this year.
“I try to enter something different each year,” she said. “Soul food has such a variety of things you can cook. I love to cook. It’s the food I was raised on.”
A Gospel Explosion concert will be 6 p.m. Jan. 20.
The annual parade, which is to begin at 1 p.m. Jan. 21 along Martin Luther King Street, will feature the 75-member Langston University Marching Band.
“We used to get the band in our parades when the parades were downtown,” said Derrick Reed, the director of Muskogee’s MLK Center.
This year’s parade will include a “unity drum line” featuring drummers from Hilldale, Fort Gibson and Muskogee high schools’ marching bands, he said.
In a first for the parade, prizes will be awarded for the best entries, Reed said, adding, “They can be floats or marching groups.”
A major attraction for the parade are the cars participating in the annual car show, Reed said. The car show, to take place at the Martin Luther King Center after the parade, is open to a variety of automoibiles, including sports cars and classic cars, he said.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or email@example.com.
If you go
WHAT: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Jan. 17, showing of “Soul Food Junkies”; 7 p.m. Jan. 18, Rhythm and Blues Yearbook; noon, Jan. 19, Soul Food Cook-Off; 6 p.m. Jan. 20, Gospel Explosion concert; 1 p.m. Jan. 21, annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade; car show immediately after parade.
WHERE: “Soul Food Junkies” at the Roxy; Rhythm and Blues Yearbook at the Roxy; Cook-off at Civic Center; Gospel Explosion at the Roxy; Parade on Martin Luther King Street. Car show at Martin Luther King Center.
INFORMATION: Cassandra Gaines, (918) 682-9131.