Ali's legend floats like a butterfly through a hometown festival

Thu Jun 9, 2016 2:04am EDT
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By Steve Bittenbender

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - A celebration of Muhammad Ali's life continued on Wednesday in the late boxing champion's hometown of Louisville, where a daylong "I Am Ali" Festival passed his legend on to a new generation through stories and arts and crafts.

Craig Davidson, 45, of Louisville, brought his 15- and 11-year-old sons to the festival to pay their last respects.

"I grew up as a kid at their age watching his fights," Davidson said. "I knew about his stance during the Vietnam War. ... I just wanted them to know more about him."

Ali, whose boxing prowess, showmanship and public opposition to the Vietnam War made him one of the world's most famous people in the turbulent 1960s and '70s, died last Friday of septic shock in an Arizona hospital. He was 74.

Plans were being finalized for the final days of mourning, including Friday's public service at the KFC Yum! Center.

Before the festival started on Wednesday, fans gathered at the arena to claim tickets for the service. At least 14,000 tickets were distributed after officials released them early due to the long line of people.

The final service will include such luminaries as former U.S. President Bill Clinton and comedian Billy Crystal. Actor Will Smith, who portrayed Ali in a 2001 movie, and former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis will be among the pallbearers.

The festival, at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, was aimed at children, celebrating Ali's life with music, dance, and art and educational activities.   Continued...

Fans of the late Muhammad Ali sign a large banner at the I AM ALI event to celebrate his life at the Kentucky Center of the Performing Arts in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. June 8, 2016.  REUTERS/John Sommers II