CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of one of the most prominent leaders during the Civil Rights Movement. Many Central Illinois communities are celebrating the day with special events.

Countywide Celebration at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Krannert Center, Urbana
Jan. 15: 4:30 – 7 p.m.

The MLK Countywide Committee and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Advocacy for Justice Committee are hosting a countywide celebration. The celebration will open with selections from the MLK Community Choir followed by greetings from U of I Chancellor Robert Jones, Champaign Mayor Deborah Feinen, Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin, and a keynote address by Rev. Joel King, Jr., King’s first cousin.

All Champaign County residents are welcome to attend the event. Other attendees of the city-sponsored event include Champaign City Council Members, Human Relations Commission Members, and Citizen Review Subcommittee Members.

For more information, you can visit www.mlkcelebration.org or contact City of Champaign Acting Community Relations Manager Mary Roberson at 217-402-3995.

MLK Walk for Peace at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park

Starting at King School, Urbana
Jan. 16: Begins at noon

The MLK Walk for Peace will begin and end at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Parking is available at King School and along Wascher Dr. Walking route maps will also be provided at the park.

Event organizers include the City of Urbana, Urbana Free Library, Urbana Park District, and Urbana Rotary Club, but more organizers are still wanted.

Anyone who wants to be an organizer or participate in the event can contact Urbana Park District Executive Director Tim Bartlett at tabartlett@urbanaparks.org or (217) 367-1536 for more information.

Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom March at Mueller Park

Starting at Mueller Park, Decatur
Jan. 16: Begins at 10 a.m.

The City of Decatur plans to celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 37th Annual Freedom March, coordinated by a subcommittee of the Decatur Human Relations Commission. The march begins at Mueller Park and marchers will then proceed north to the Decatur Civic Center.

A program then follows the march in the Civic Center Theater at 11 a.m. in which local author and history teacher Richard Hansen will lead the program’s theme “Teaching our Past Improves our Future.” Decatur Public School students were invited to participate in an essay, poem, and/or artwork contest with the theme of “Now is the Time to Live the Dream.” Winners will read their essays and poems during the program. The winning artwork will also be on display.

“We look forward to the community’s participation!” the commission said.

Event updates can be found here.