Larry Abernathy maintains his humility when he talks about his involvement in Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Wagoner.

The longtime city councilor shakes off credit for keeping event going in this town for 35 years. This year’s event is scheduled for Jan. 20.

“I like seeing Wagoner grow, but this event isn’t about me,” he said. “I hope it gets bigger and I’m still working on it. I want people to hook up and go with it.”

Abernathy said the day was started by a couple of women in the 1960s. He took it over in 1985 has been doing it ever since.

“One year I didn’t do it and I got 30 phone calls from people asking me about what happened to the march,” he said. “I got involved in 1985 until now. We’ve had some pretty good marches. I got the library to help us and (the chief librarian) and she made it move.

“We had 200 people who got involved with it last year. I’ve heard we’re one of the biggest events on this side of the state.”

This year’s events feature something for everybody, including a ceremony at Semore Park with guest speakers Mayor A.J. Jones, Judge Dennis Shook, Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, and Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, along with the Wagoner High School choir and speakers at the civic center, a coloring contest for students with cash prizes in pre-kindergarten through third grade and Food of the Souls.

The featured speaker at Semore Park will be Belinda Alexander-Ashley, the granddaughter of longtime city councilor A.L. Alexander.

The march starts at 9 a.m. at Wagoner Public Works and travels a six-block route through town before ending at Semore Park.

Abernathy will be the master of ceremonies for the day.

“We love it for to be a huge day,” said Kristen Mallett of the Wagoner Chamber of Commerce.

Abernathy is particularly excited about the Food of Souls. He emphasizes it’s not a soul food cook-off.

“If it’s anything you would like to cook, just bring it so other people can taste it,” he said. “We’ll be giving out prizes for that.”

No parade would be complete without a grand marshal. This year, the honor will be held by Joe Gordon, the longtime high school boys basketball coach and now with the Brighter Futures Foundation.

“We wanted to try find somebody who believes in the community,” Abernathy said.

Abernathy, though, isn’t concerned about the weather. He said he parade and rest of the events will go on as scheduled, rain or shine. Even if it snows.

“I haven’t looked at the weather, but whatever turns up, we’ll do it even if nobody is there but me,” he said with a laugh. “One year, it was so cold that everybody stood close together, and I said that’s the way should be anyway. For those who can’t march, we’ll have a bus for them.”

It’s a lot of work to organize this event. 

“Everybody chips in and this keeps getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “I like the way it’s turning out, but it’s not about me. I’m just one person among others who have been. This day is for everybody.”

If you go

WHAT: Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Wagoner.

WHEN: 8 a.m.-12 p.m. Jan. 20.

WHERE: Sites in Wagoner including Semore Park, Wagoner Civic Center, downtown area.

INFORMATION: (918) 485-5912.

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