MERCED — A day meant for commemorating civil rights is one that doesn't go unnoticed in Merced.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which will be celebrated Monday, is memorialized annually in Merced with a march down Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Eugene Drummond Jr., a member of the MLK Committee that organizes the event every year, said the purpose of the day is to carry on King's message to embrace diversity and point out that "together, we can do anything and we're powerful."
"The really cool thing about the march is as we're marching, people on the sides tend to just fold in," said Drummond, who added that the event usually draws 800 to 1,200 people.
Monday's march will start at 11 a.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 24th Street, Drummond said.
People usually start gathering about 10 a.m. The march proceeds about two miles down Martin Luther King Jr. Way and ends in the Merced County Fairgrounds exhibit building.
Various programs at the exhibit building start at noon, Drummond said. The acts are put on by children.
"They want the youth to carry on the legacy, get them to participate and learn the history," he said.
The program at the fairgrounds will come to an end around 2 p.m.
This year's grand marshals include Sheriff Mark Pazin, Merced Planning Commissioner Dwight Amey and Wil Dean, owner of the Merced Chevrolet dealership.
Dean, originally from Texas, attributes his success to King. Growing up in the late 1960s, 45-year-old Dean said the thought of a black man owning a car dealership at that time wasn't a realistic option.
Now, because of King's groundwork, minorities and historically disenfranchised groups continue to make strides, Dean said.
"We are achieving and doing things that no one thought we could have done back in the '60s," he said.
A prime example is President Barack Obama, who will be inaugurated Monday, Dean noted. Such achievements show younger generations that anything is possible.
Lt. Andre Matthews of the Merced Police Department said officers will temporarily close Highway 59 at Childs Avenue for the march. Traffic coming into town during the event will be diverted onto east and west Childs Avenue.
Other temporary road closures start at 11 a.m. from 24th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way to Eighth Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Matthews said.
The closures will be in effect from 11 a.m. to noon, he noted. There shouldn't be a significant impact on traffic, but drivers can expect 15- to 20-minute delays on side streets.
Eugene Drummond Sr., another member of the MLK Committee, said this year's event is the 17th annual in Merced.
Just as King was able to unify people as he fought for civil rights in the 1960s, Monday's march will allow Merced to unite in a very similar way.
"It's important for Merced and everybody because it's a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and his effect on our lives," he said.
The National Weather Service is anticipating sunny skies for Monday's event with a high temperature of 60 degrees.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.