A merry day on 5th Avenue

Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 2:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 2:41 p.m.

Blue skies and cool weather provided the perfect setting for "Christmas On the Avenue," a parade and community party that drew more than 1,000 people to the historic NW 5th Avenue neighborhood.

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Santa Claus distributed toys to 200 children. Here, he is with 4-year-old Curtis Mitchell and 3-year-old Ronnie Mitchell.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian

After a 41-year hiatus, the parade and party ushered in the holiday season last Saturday with the event, which was sponsored by People, Organized, Working, Empowered, Renewed, or P.O.W.E.R. Group, which is under the umbrella of the historic Lincoln High School Alumni Association.

Along the parade route from NW 3rd Street to 11th Street, parade participants were greeted with cheers by the adults and children who lined the streets. At the community party, which was held at the Tot Lot on NW 5th Avenue and 10th Street, Santa Claus provided gifts to 200 children.

Collins Duncan, director of Duncan Brothers Funeral Home, also located on NW 5th Avenue, served as grand marshal of the parade, which featured 35 units consisting of the Gainesville Police Department, the Reichert House, the Divine Divas Motorcyle Club of Ocala, the Red Hat Divas of Gainesville, the Gainesville chapter of the Charmettes, the Buffalo Riders Horse Riding Club, former FAMU queen Candace White, newly elected School Board member Leanetta McNealy, the Gainesville Job Corps Center, Alachua County NAACP president Evelyn Foxx, Gaineville city Commissioner Yvonne Rawls, Alachua County Tax Collector Von Fraser, and many more.

Organizers of the event were pleased and ready to do it again next year.

"I'm very pleased with the turnout," said Isaac Jones, one of the founders of P.O.W.E.R. and co-owner of Two Friends Coffee Shop, also located on NW 5th Avenue. "We had three weeks to plan this one. For next year, we will have one year to plan and it will be bigger and better."

Albert White, also a founder of P.O.W.E.R. and co-owner of Two Friends, said the event was exceptional. "This was excpetional. This was nostalgic," White said. "Folks are going crazy about the parade."

"I'm beyond happy," said Terri Bailey, another member of P.O.W.E.R. "It turned out well," she said. "It will be better organized next year."

But, the event garnered high praise from those participating in the activities.

Arnette Wilson said she was happy to return to NW 5th Avenue to celebrate the holidays. "This is a very special ocassion," said Wilson, adding that she was proud to share the ocassion with her 2-year-old great niece, Asiya McDonald. "I'm so proud to bring my great niece to this celebration. After so many years, we're coming back to 5th Avenue for Christmas.

"This is great," said John Alexander, executive director of the Reichert House. "It gives us a sense of community."

LaVern Porter, director of the LaVern Porter Dancers, said the parade was wonderful and a long time coming.

"I'm having a great time," said Lilly McGee, a member of the Red Hat Divas. "I'll be back next year — if the Lord is willing."

Bettye Baskin, a member of the Charmettes, said it was nice to see the community come out to celebrate. "The crowd was cheerful," Baskin said. "I saw friends I haven't seen in a long time."

Anita Jenkins, manager of Library Partnership on NE 16th Avenue, said she enjoyed seeing old friends and classmates from historic Lincoln High School.

"It's been a long time coming," said Jenkins. "I think they (organizers) did a great job. It brought out a lot of people into the community."

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