Here it comes again this year: a birthday parade for Martin Luther King Jr. that returns to its traditional  route: St. Claude Avenue, starting at 11 a.m. today (Saturday, January 13).

The parade’s announcement came late from organizers at Friends of King School District, who finally resolved parade-permit security a few days ago, after being told last month that New Orleans Police Department did not have the manpower to provide security along the route. Finally, on Wednesday night, other bands and parade units were notified and notes sent home with King school’s band students, notifying them that the parade was now back on.

This is not the official city MLK parade; that happens Saturday in Central City. But before Hurricane Katrina, St. Claude was the spine of the annual city-sponsored parade.

It had become a family get-together day, with barbecue grills lined up along St. Claude. Families came early to watch their children, who danced the route in dancing groups or marched as majorettes with a school band. For many, this parade was a sneak peak at Mardi Gras, to see which bands and dancing groups were going to dominate Carnival parades.

Like so many city traditions, the official St. Claude city parade route faded away after Katrina. Then last year, the Friends of King School District began to revive the traditional route. 

It was a deliberate attempt to re-start the MLK birthday tradition on St. Claude, said Gloria Miles, admission director for the district and a 7th Ward native, who would watch the parade as a child by the Schwegmann’s supermarket, at the corner of St. Claude and Elysian Fields Avenue.

Again this year, the King School parade will span almost the entirety of St. Claude Avenue, in a way that will feel familiar to fans of the pre-Katrina city route.

The procession will start promptly at 11 a.m. on Saturday (January 13) on Poland Avenue, at the foot of the Industrial Canal and will follow St. Claude/North Ramsey all the way to St. Ann Street/Armstrong Park. Its theme is “Transforming the Dream,” 

On Monday, officials will take a short, abbreviated spin through Central City, stopping at the MLK bust on North Claiborne. King’s band, which includes musicians and dancers from fifth to 12 graders, has also been invited to play in the city’s Monday parade