MLK celebration: Three days of love, peace & fun

BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – This January 19 marks Martin Luther King Day, Jr. where all around the nation people will pay their respects to an American hero who dedicated his life to peace, equality and the advancement of the human race. This year a free three-day celebration is planned to honor the contributions Martin Luther King, Jr. made, and to have fun of course.

Eric Atwater stands outside the old Atwater Cafeteria at his barbeque making his famous to-die-for chicken and ribs. He has hopes of one day reopening the soul food restaurant that used to thrive along MLK Street and 22nd Avenue South. In the meantime, however, Atwater has drummed up quite an event that promises to have St. Pete talking until next year.

“I’m always giving back,” said Atwater who has teamed up with his friend Ace from Cricket Wireless, a prepaid provider of wireless voice, text, and data services and a subsidiary of AT&T Inc., to bring three days of celebration to anyone and everyone who wants to stop by.

“I want to invite the whole city out—the mayor, city council, St. Petersburg Police Department, Chief Anthony Holloway and whoever wants to come out and have a good time,” said Atwater.

Sat., Jan 17 beginning at 12:30 p.m., a car show is planned with cars and their owners from all over the state driving in to show off their wheels.

“I’ve got people coming from Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa,” said Atwater. A $500 dollar cash prize, along with a trophy, will go to the first place car. Bounce houses for the kids will be set up and free hotdogs will be handed out to hungry car enthusiasts. “It’s going to be wow!”

Saturday’s car show will be located along 22nd Street South and 62nd Avenue South.

The weekend continues with a block party on Sunday in honor of Leon Atwater who died last year on Jan. 18 of a heart attack. A big brother that was always there for Atwater, Leon is remembered as a hardworking man who instilled a sense of determination in those lives that he touched.

“He showed me how to be tough,” said Atwater who hopes the one-year memorial party will bring Leon’s spirit of giving to the forefront and others will remember him and the unique qualities that made him loved. “We’re going to celebrate my brother Leon in heaven.”

Live performances are scheduled for Sunday’s event, which is slated to begin around noon and promises to have various vendors on hand. DJ Frank, Atwater’s cousin, is also providing music. The block party will take place at 22nd Street South and 9th Avenue South.

As for MLK Day on Monday, an all-day event is planned with live entertainment, such as LT with the steel drums and others. It all takes place in front of Atwater’s Cafeteria on MLK Street and 22nd Avenue South.

Atwater promises live entertainment all three days such as local artist ONLYONETWO and the whole TBPG family. Check out their youtube channel at youtube.com/user/ONLYONETWOTV.

“Around this time I lost my brother, so it all fits right on point to do a good free day with memories of my brother and Martin Luther King and to bring the community together,” said Atwater who hopes to see a crowd each and every day having fun.

But he also wants the community to remember the sacrifices Martin Luther King made and try to emulate his ways and work ethic.

“We have to take care of our family,” said Atwater who dedicates his time to fulfilling Martin Luther King’s dream of working with others and trying to make young black men understand that working together is what it’s all about. “There’s nothing wrong with giving and helping one another,” said Atwater. A worthy sentiment to keep in our hearts every day of the year.

To reach Holly Kestenis, email hkestenis@theweeklychallenger.com

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