One of the biggest events in Aiken honoring Black History Month took place on sunny downtown streets over the weekend. 

The 20th Annual Aiken Black History Parade rolled out on Saturday afternoon down Hampton Avenue. This year, around 70 different groups had signed up to participate in the parade.

Black Historical Committee President Anthony White said the turnout for the event was "wonderful."

"We couldn’t ask for a better day as far as weather or the participants," White said. "They came out in full force."

White was especially happy at the number of children and youth that were in this year's parade.

"That really was a good thing to see," White said. "They had the chance to see history – the old cars, people dressed up certain ways. You may see it in a book, but seeing in person – that goes a long way."

Local churches, community organizations, and civic agencies participated in the parade. Dozens of classic and modern sports cars streamed by, followed by floats that blared music and trucks full of children cheering for the crowd to stand up and vote.

Rick Brown, a former employee of Aiken Public Safety, created the parade 20 years ago. Brown was troubled by divisiveness he saw in the community and hoped a unity parade might inspire people to stand together.

"We were going through some difficult times where government, police, community were totally separated," Brown said. "We tried to improve the communication and unity between those groups."

Brown said it was great to see people still lining the streets to watch the parade two decades later.

This year's parade theme was "Continuing the dream for unity."

"For 20 years, we had different themes to highlight the achievements and accomplishments of African Americans," Brown said.

This year's theme, Brown claimed, was a look back on the past 20 years and incorporating it all into one day.

A panel of judges ranked the groups participating in the parade for their presentation and turnout. The Smith Hazel Senior Citizens came in first place with a Martin Luther King Jr.-inspired float. 

Aiken Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. came in second. Stairway Counseling with Jaime Brunson S.C. D.J. WORM 803 and Quantavious Robinson Q Da D.J. was ranked third.

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.