The city of Compton on Saturday will host its 61st annual Christmas Parade, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning at the corner of Compton Boulevard and Alameda Street and culminating about one and one-half miles south at the Gateway Town Center at Alameda Street and Greenleaf Boulevard.

Amber Riley, who last month teamed with Derek Hough to win the “Mirror Ball” trophy on “Dancing With the Stars,” will be grand marshal. The compton native has also appeared on “Glee” and “American Idol.”

With the theme “Home for the Holidays: 125 Years of Unity, Pride and Achievements,” the parade is part of the 10-month celebration of Compton’s 125th anniversary.

Already this month, the city hosted its first “Festival of Trees” lighting ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. monument across from City Hall which saw residents, merchants and city officials help ring in the holiday season with carols, storytelling and refreshments.

The anniversary celebration has been ongoing since August and has included ice cream socials, “peace and unity rides,” harvest festivals and even lectures and tours of the city, which included a stop by the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum, a California Historical Landmark at 18127 S. Alameda St.

Popularly known as the “Hub City” because it sits at the apex of a number of freeways, Compton was one of the first 10 cities to incorporate in Los Angeles County.

“It’s time to come together, with unity, peace and a renewed strength and sense of pride,” said Mayor Aja Brown. “All races and ages can focus on what this great city has meant to so many and on what is being done to prepare for the future. Our goal is to celebrate the history of our city by empowering and engaging our citizens with fun, inspiring, relevant and educational activities that will help foster a positive human relations climate.”

On Jan. 11, a city-wide day of prayer will honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while the “Color of Love” Jazz Cultural Festival will take place on Jan. 18. February will see historical tours and exhibits as well as an opportunity to meet and speak with elected officials. In March, local athletes will participate in the “Youth” and “Adult” games, while a celebration of past and present Olympic greats hailing from Compton will take place on March 29. Among the latter group are track and field greats Bob Beamon, the late Charles Dumas, the late Earlene Brown (roller derby fans may remember her as T-Birds’ “747”), Quincy Watts, and tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams.

In April, the “125 Scholarship Run/Walk” will take place, followed by the “Compton’s Got Talent Gospel Fest” on April 26. May 10 will offer the Mayoral Ball and Scholarship Dinner, as well as the Hub City Awards.

“Compton has changed for the better. We see much more unity and cooperation among residents,” said Rev. Charles Brown, associate pastor of First Charity Missionary Baptist Church and project planner for the anniversary celebration. “Also, there is more interest from our youth as well as more concern from the clergy about the future of Compton. We have a bright future; the mayor wants to be more transparent in the operation of the city, and I am impressed with her relationship with her constituents and her communication with the city council and staff.”

Compton has a rich history of famous persons who were either born or have resided there, among them: former Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush; actors Kevin Costner, James Coburn and Niecy Nash; humorist Mort Sahl; “Today Show” co-host Al Roker; former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, and hall of fame athletes Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith and Anthony Munoz.

Compton is one of the oldest communities in Southern California. The territory was settled in 1867 by a band of 30 families who were led to the area from Stockton by Griffith Dickenson Compton. Originally called Gipsonville and later Comptonville, the settlement became Compton in 1869. By 1887, a petition supporting the incorporation of Compton was delivered to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors which, in turn, forwarded it to the State Legislature. The area to be incorporated included all the land one mile east and west of Wilmington Avenue (now Willowbrook Avenue), and from Greenleaf to the south to a quarter mile north of Rosecrans Avenue.

Colonial settlement in this area traces back to the 1770s when a Spanish soldier, Juan Jose Dominguez (originally a member of the fabled Portola expedition to the New World), accompanied Father Junipero Serra and fellow Franciscan missionaries to provide security in the still unexplored region of the California territory. Upon Dominguez’ retirement from the military in 1774, California’s first governor, Luis Antonio Arguello, awarded him with the state’s first land grant—about 75,000 acres stretching from the Los Angeles River to the ocean—encompassing what is today the cities of Compton, Carson, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Lomita, Wilmington and parts of San Pedro.

Today Compton is a multiracial, multicultural city of more than 100,000 residents with the Hispanic population totaling about 64 percent and African Americans at a little more than 32 percent.

Native Americans have influenced the entire southeast portion of Los Angeles County. Nearby in Carson at the Watson Industrial Center (near the corner of 230th Street and Utility Way), Los Angeles Historical Marker No. 13 commemorates the discovery of relics left by the Suangna (or Tongva) Indians who established the villages in the Rancho San Pedro area some 6,000 years before the first White men arrived on Southland shores. Known to Spanish explorers as the Gabrielino Indians (the name taken from the San Gabriel Mission), the Suangna Indians lived locally on thousands of miles of grazing land until the end of the 19th Century.

Here a few milestones Compton is noted for:

• In the 1920s, Compton Airport opened, as well as Compton Junior College.

• The Long Beach earthquake of 1933 dealt a heavy blow to Compton which was still grappling with the affects of the Great Depression.

• The 1940s saw tremendous industrial growth along the Alameda Industrial Corridor, and

• By the 1950s the first African American families began moving into the city. Centennial High School was built during this time to accommodate the growing population.

• The 1960s saw Douglas Dollarhide become the first African American mayor of Compton, while two Black persons and one Hispanic person were elected to the city council—all milestone events considering Compton up until the 1950s was among the most resistant of Los Angeles suburbs to allow Blacks to either reside and/or operate a business.

• From the 1970s-1990s, the Community Redevelopment Agency transformed more than 1,500 acres of unused and underutilized land into Walnut Industrial Park which parallels the Artesia (91) Freeway. This industrial and commercial complex contains some of the West Coast’s largest distribution centers of national and international corporations, including Nissan Motors, Ralphs Grocery Co., and Xerox Corp.

• When the Blue Line light rail was routed through the city in the early 1990s, Compton constructed the MLK Transit Center at Compton Boulevard and Willowbrook Avenue. The center serves as a central resting point for bus transit carriers, with an emphasis on interfacing the Los Angeles/Long Beach Metro Blue Line system operated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Greyhound Bus Lines and the Compton Renaissance Transit.

Today Compton is a multiracial, multicultural city of more than 100,000 residents with the Hispanic population totaling about 64 percent and African Americans at a little more than 32 percent.