Thousands of onlookers lined the sun-swept streets of downtown Santa Ana on Saturday for the city's Black History Month parade, a celebration of diversity that's become one of Orange County's most popular festivals.
"It's a great day. We have a mix of cultures here in Santa Ana. We can celebrate not just for Martin Luther King, but for everybody," said Kenny Murray, 40, a postal employee from Anaheim. "Look at the crowd. We have Asians, blacks, whites, Hispanics. We've come together."
There were black gospel singers, several marching bands--and Orange County's top Latino elected official, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, prancing along Civic Center Drive and slapping hands.
The parade, which drew an estimated 2,500 people, was a family affair. Children sat on fathers' shoulders and delighted at the sights and sounds of an event dating back more than two decades.
James Gaither, who moved to Orange County in 1958 and later joined the county's Human Relations Commission, said the climate for blacks has changed in the county, where they are just 2% of the population.
"Things like this help," he said. "See all these different nationalities? It's beautiful. After Sept. 11, we need all of this you can get."
Not everyone in the crowd was thrilled. As a motorcade of the county's predominantly white elected officials went by, Myisha Saulsberry Singletary complained, "It's Black History Month, where's the black people? If you're in L.A. County, the parades are different."
She and her father still appeared to be having a good time, inching out onto Civic Center Drive for a look at the approaching floats and marching bands.
"It's beautiful, but it's different than it was a few years ago," Wendal Singletary said. "It's more all-American."
Afterward was a cultural fair, with black history exhibits and food from several cultures.
"It's nice. The sun's out. People are in a good mood," said Rick Russell of Santa Ana. "There's not much more you can ask for."