BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore turned out Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Marching bands, dance groups, and performers made their way down Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. as part of the 18th annual MLK Day Parade in Baltimore, but it didn’t happen without controversy.

Large crowds turn out for the parade every year, so the idea to end it came as a surprise.

Many people were grateful they had a celebration Monday.

The dancing, the drum line, the dream.

Thousands of Baltimoreans celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact.

“I’m just proud to be here right now and support,” Alvetta Allen said.

“I just recently moved to Baltimore, and obviously, MLK Day is a big day in the history of the USA, so I just wanted to see it for myself,” Bahar Tuncgenc said.

For 18 years, the parade has been honoring the life of the civil rights leader. More than 70 groups marched along the boulevard named after the icon, and many more brave the cold to watch.

With all the performances and excitement, it’s hard to believe this parade almost didn’t happen.

In December, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced a plan to end the parade and replace it with a day of service. A day to give back to the community in the spirit of Dr. King.

The change sparked strong emotions and criticism.

“I wanted people to engage in a day of service,” Pugh said. “We thought that it could replace the MLK Day, but then I said I think I can do both, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Many at the parade were happy about the mayor’s change of heart.

“I’m glad that they reinstated it because it’s so silly to take this away,” Katey Truhn said. “It’s such a positive event for the community.”

“I’m glad that the mayor decided to continue the tradition, and I wanted to bring my girls to share in it,” Tierra Taylor said.

There’s something about the beat of the drums, that’s makes people want to join in. So that the celebration and the dream, both live on for future generations.

“All people should be able to sit next to each other, eat with each other, and come together,” Kenadi Gantt said.

Many who were at the parade also volunteered, making this day off, a day on for many in our city.

The grand marshal of this year’s parade was “The Voice” finalist and Baltimore native Davon Fleming.

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