City posts survey for more feedback on recent MLK parade; Council weighs in is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

As an extension to its recent “debriefing” with stakeholders on the positives and negatives of last month’s Martin Luther King Parade downtown, the City of Wilmington has posted an online survey asking residents’ opinions on its route, time and parking situation among other aspects.

The nine-prompt survey, viewable here, is intended to help the city and the parade’s organizers improve planning for next year’s event and others like it.

At a review session Monday morning, city staffers reiterated to members of the Wilminton City Council that concerns came in by way of phone calls and emails from business owners who felt the Jan. 21 noontime parade’s route and scheduling were restrictive, granting no easy access for customers or employees. They also said they didn’t feel adequately informed about the street closures. (Related story)

One of the approximately 115 groups that marched in the Jan. 21 Martin Luther King Parade in downtown Wilmington. Photo by Ben Brown. Click here for a gallery.

Although city council members and staffers appeared in the parade, the city did not conduct it; it was organized by an independent committee, which obtained necessary permits from the city.

While at least 115 civic groups, marching bands and other parties paced the route–along several blocks of the retail-heavy Front and Water streets downtown–large gaps of downtime between some of the groups prompted criticism from business owners and city officials alike.

But Councilman Charlie Rivenbark on Monday said the event’s apparent problems, like the gaps and the access points for business employees to come and go, were individually “minor” concerns that could disappear with some tightening and tweaking.

“We ain’t got to reinvent the wheel here, and they can make that thing run just as smooth as butter,” said Rivenbark.

The parade in its 11th year had moved to the Front-to-Water street route after a decade on Castle Street. The parade’s committee said the move to the heart of downtown was prompted by the event’s annual growth and a desire to increase its profile.

Council members including Laura Padgett on Monday noted that if growth is such a point with the Martin Luther King Parade, perhaps Third Street–the route the annual Azalea Festival parade travels–might be a better suit. Padgett explained Third Street is lined mostly by banks and government buildings that would be closed on Martin Luther King Day, anyway–usually not the case with the sort of retail businesses known to Front Street.

The city’s online survey, which will be live until Feb. 15, asks residents whether they attended this year’s parade, whether they live or work downtown and whether they approved of the route. There are also some free writing spaces for extended comments.

(Click here to view comments the city received at a Jan. 29 meeting with business owners, residents and other stakeholders about the parade.)

City staffers said an internal review and a separate discussion with the parade’s officials are ahead.

Findings may factor into updated city policies for future, street-closing events downtown.

While perceived problems with this year’s parade fueled the city’s discussion, Padgett on Monday emphasized the parade’s committee deserves recognition for its work growing the event.

Contact Ben Brown at or (910) 772-6335. On Twitter: @benbrownmedia