FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — More than 600 people gathered at Chester Pruitt Park in Fort Walton Beach Monday, Jan. 16 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The annual march hosted by the Okaloosa County Celebration Committee traveled Hollywood Blvd., Beal Pkwy, and Carson Dr. as people joined their voices together.

Committee chairman Malcolm Harris said the message for the 2023 celebration was ‘Standing Together in Solidarity and Unity.’

“We’re bringing people together from diverse backgrounds as you can see to do that,” said Harris. “To walk together to show and stand for what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for.”

The committee hosted three events over the holiday weekend with winners from the local competitions riding in the march.

“On Saturday we had our Oratorical and Poster contest. That’s where many of the Okaloosa County School District students come together and show their artistic and intellectual talents by speaking and making posters centered around anything dealing with Dr. King,” said Harris.

Fort Walton Beach’s Beulah First Baptist Church held a memorial service Sunday, Jan. 15 where the poem and poster winners were invited to share their creations.

School kids stood on sidewalks Monday sharing stories about what they’d learned about MLK.

“He gave a big speech about wanting white and black people to join together,” said one little girl.

“In times like this it’s the keywords, ‘Standing Together in Solidarity and Unity,’ and if we can all do that and put our differences aside, this place will be a better place,” said Harris.

Following the march, a rally and food event filled the green space at Chester Pruitt Park for everyone to enjoy motivational speeches and music.

“The biggest reason we still observe him today is because he stood for so much,” said Harris. “Not to be violent, non-violence really, equality, civil rights. He not only wanted that for one group of people but he wanted that for all groups of people, and not just for the United States but all around the world. So we want the same thing here, we want diversity, we want unity to spread amongst everyone today.”