Join the parade: Umoja seeking entrants

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 31, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Organizers of Johnson City’s 18th annual Umoja Festival have renewed their invitation for a broad cast of parade entries to join in the next weekend’s community unity celebration downtown.

“We are trying to reach out to the community,” Umoja Committee member Gwen Smith said. Marching bands, dance troupes, youth groups, churches, civic clubs, car and motorcycle enthusiasts, political candidates, pageant winners and others groups and individuals are all invited to join the parade, set to line up at 9 a.m. Aug. 9 at Carver Recreation Center.

The parade will begin at 10 and proceed along Unaka Avenue, West Main Street and Commerce Street.

In addition to new and past parade entrants, the committee is also encouraging more families and individuals to come downtown and enjoy the diverse and colorful show of community unity the parade represents.

“We usually have a big crowd on Unaka at Carver and large numbers in bunches along Main Street. We would like more people just come out and watch and enjoy it,” Smith said.

Those already committed to the lineup include the Jericho Shrine, whom Smith said take part in the parade every year and will be back with their color guard and precision motorcycles. The Vicious Hogs motorcycle Club of Raleigh, N.C., the Sunset Car Club, the popular Shaka Zulu Stilt Walkers of New Orleans, the Wototo Drummers of Atlanta and the crowd-pleasing Mariachi dancers who also take part in the parade every year will also be the procession. And riding up front will be Carver Recreation Center Director Herb Greenlee, the parade’s grand marshal.

While Science Hill High School’s Marching Hilltopper Band, which took part in the parade for the first time last year, has not yet made a commitment, Smith said the committee is hopeful they will be back and that other area high school bands will join in as well.

“All the marching bands are invited,” she said.

Also still uncommitted are East Tennessee State University’s new football Coach Carl Torbush, who served as the parade’s grand marshal last year, and all of ETSU’s athletic program directors, members and players.

“All the ETSU teams are invited,” Smith said.

“We haven’t heard from a lot of people, but last year we didn’t hear anything from Rolling Thunder until the morning of the parade and there they were. We hope a lot of them will show up this year too.”

Smith said Johnson City and Washington County commissioner David Tomita was another surprise entrant in last year’s parade and made a impression on Umoja’s organizers and guests with his appearance.

“He just showed up and he walked the whole route by himself. He impressed a lot of people doing that.”

While drop-ins will once again be welcomed, those who would like to firm up their spot in the parade or who are need of more information are encouraged to call Gwen or Ron Smith at 737-6544 or 741-5079 for details.

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