SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -

Step by step, they crossed the bridge on Benton Ave. Those participating in the Martin Luther King Day parade hoped to span the gap between cultures and races.

“I figured I could give one day of my life for a man who basically died to help me getting what I am getting today- which is a pretty good life,” stated participant Joseph Jackson.

From marching through the streets, to dancing on a stage, several events marked King Day. In addition to the parade, hundreds of people attended the Springfield. Multicultural Festival. The event was held at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.

“It’s our hope that people’s lives are enriched.  And they gain an education and an understanding about folks who don’t necessarily look like them, but share the rich heritage of the Ozarks,” stated organizer Samuel Knox.  “We may have all come to this country from someplace else.  But we are all in the same boat now. And we are proud to be Americans.”

“It is not just to have a day off of work.  It is not just a day to come down.  But it is a day to think back upon what he stood for is the way I feel about it,” stated participant Abraham Clark.

Those who have been around a while say things are changing for the good.

“It’s coming around,” explained participant Kenneth Estes.

“It’s a different culture and city that we are living in today,” Clark said.

According to U.S. Census Bureau numbers, Springfield  is becoming a little more diverse. In 2000, 91% of Springfieldians were white. That has since dropped to 88%.  In that same period, the number of Hispanics doubled from 2% to nearly 4%. That is about the same number of African-Americans living in the city.