DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Tens of thousands of people walked through Denver on Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. in one of the biggest turnouts in years for the city’s annual march and parade.

They gathered in City Park for speeches by lawmakers including Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, as well as prayers and singing before making the 3-mile walk down Colfax Avenue past the state Capitol in the 30th annual event.

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The march itself in warm weather had a festival feel at times, with marchers dancing to beat of drummers camped out on a corner, people throwing candy to children watching from the sidewalk and a group of cowboys on horseback. But the remarks and music at the rally before the march along with signs referencing the recent deaths of unarmed black men by police across the country also seemed to reflect a weariness and frustration in the crowd.

Student leaders who planned school walkouts over the situation in Ferguson, Missouri joined community leaders to lead the Marade, which is one of the largest in the country.

PHOTO GALLERY: Denver Marade 2014

Many people who marched say this year more than others was important to March because of what happened in Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner in New York City.

“The conversation about race has been pretty quiet for the last 5 years personally in my community of friends,” Marade participant Enessa Janes said. “But with Ferguson and all of the shootings recently, and also the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France, it’s something that the whole world is dealing with right now … if it’s important to me, I need to be a part of the larger community.”

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“I think that we’ve come a long way from where we were, however I do also think that given the events of last year we have quite a bit of work to do in understanding each other,” participant Nick Donkoh said. ”

A 10-year-old girl’s rendition of Tamela Mann’s gospel song “Take Me to the King” with verses like “Truth is it’s time/To stop playing these games/We need a word/For the people’s pain” drew big applause and at least one “Yes!” from the crowd. While Hickenlooper urged people to make sure they and their neighbors were registered to vote and actually voted, the final speaker told the crowd, “If you can’t live, you can’t have a right to vote.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told the crowd that God isn’t looking for a new Martin Luther King but is whispering to everyone to help see justice carried out.

“Don’t look for someone to go for us. … We all have a role to play,” he said.

Police expected 50,000 people at the event and organizers estimated there were about 60,000 people at its peak, matching the turnout when President Bill Clinton participated in 1997.

– By Colleen Slevin, AP Writer

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