DALLAS - This third Monday of January is a national holiday, a chance for many in North Texas to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today would have been the civil rights leader's 83rd birthday.

In Dallas, balmy and well-above normal temperatures brought out hundreds to attend the 26th annual Elite News Martin Luther King Parade and Festival. Hundreds lined Martin Luther King Boulevard to watch one of the largest parades yet march to Fair Park.

This year, 37 entrants took part in the parade, which included everything from high school marching bands to color guards, politicians and other professionals.

Families enjoyed the opportunity to honor the great civil rights leader who spent his life fighting for racial equality and an end to racial segregation.

His message lives on, even in the hearts and minds of children too young to remember King himself. As one parade-goer told News 8, he is still her hero and a reminder to stand up for your beliefs.

Another observer said King paved the way for racial equality. As he explained, King made it possible for a man named Barack Obama to become president of the United States.

Who knows what next? he added.

Today's parade ends in Fair Park with a festival at the Tower Building. The festival will include live music and a health pavilion. The event is free and runs until 6 p.m.

Two bystanders watching the parade were injured when a horse walking in the parade was spooked by the sound of drums and broke free from its handler. One of those injured was taken to a nearby hospital.

For the first time, the country marked the day with a memorial in King's honor, which was unveiled in Washington D.C. last year.

The first family laid a wreath at the memorial Sunday and said they will do community service today to honor King's work.

The International House of Blues Foundation also honored King with its Fourth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration & Student Arts Exhibition at the House of Blues Dallas. This year, WFAA's John McCaa is hosting the event, with students sharing various visual and performance arts honoring the civil rights leader.

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