ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Late into Sunday night, hot breath made a stark contrast against the chilly St. Petersburg air at Campbell Park as bands danced and chanted in the band showcase at the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Just two years ago, Dr. Gabriel Arnold wouldn’t have imagined his band would be on such a stage.

“I’m feeling so ecstatic,” Arnold said. “Especially coming down here on Dr. Martin Luther King holiday, his day.”

And at the showcase, his Savannah State University Tigers had the crowd cheering.

“To be able to go outside of Georgia, and have this wonderful experience, and be here and perform in front of others and celebrate his birthday and his gift to the world,” Arnold said. “It’s something special that they are always going to remember.”

More than a dozen bands performed at the showcase to a crowd of more than 100.

“We have to support,” said St. Pete resident Lynelle Anderson. “Some of these bands come from a long way, so it’s good to have support out here.”

Indeed, bands came from all over the south and the state of Florida.

“It means a lot,” Anderson said. “To see the culture and to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, it means a lot. Especially for the younger ones coming up.”

All the bands performing Sunday will march in Monday’s massive parade.

“Well, Dr. King was a drum major for justice,” said Jeffrey Copeland. “All bands have drum majors in them.”

But for showcase organizer Copeland, the parade and celebration are about more than the high stepping and baton twirling.

“The parade is when you look outside the gates,” Copeland said. “You see all these people on the side of the gates, from different nationalities, sitting together, living together, playing together, not caring about what color anyone is.”

The MLK Day parade runs from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Monday and will be followed by a family fun day.