The second annual Constitution Celebration puts patriotism front and center.
This Sunday's gathering at the Williamsburg Dinner Theater will feature a variety of events honoring the country's founding document. From patriotic songs to recreating the 1787 signing to a variety of children's activities, the celebration features something for everyone.
New this year is the crowning of a Ms. U.S. Constitution, an art/logo contest, a fundraising dinner and an antique and modern car show.
"We also have really, really special veterans honoring ceremonies this year," said Heather Cerone, co-founder of the celebration. "The veterans are what inspires us to keep going."
Two sisters — Stephanie and Emilia Parks — were selected this year as Patriot Idol finalists during a lively singing competition held in mid-August. With the formal announcement of the 2012 winners slated for Sunday's celebration, the pair enjoyed the doors opened to them by participating the past two years.
"This competition has brought me to sing at places I didn't think I would sing at age 14," said Emilia Parks, a homeschooled sophomore, who last year placed third and sung her winning song, "America the Beautiful," in the National Cherry Festival Royal parade on the Constitution Celebration's float.
"I like how the competition is more about getting involved, having fun and singing for others," she added.
The sisters have also sung during local Veteran's Day and Flag Day ceremonies and at the Northwestern Michigan Fair.
"I like the strong patriotism that everyone involved shares," said Stephanie Parks, 17, a homeschool senior, of the Patriot Idol. "Also, the group of judges and organizers is so nice and encouraging to all of us."
Last year's Constitution Celebration drew 500 attendees to the City Opera House and this year organizers are hoping for even greater numbers as word spreads.
"We want all the community to come, we want all ages," Cerone said.
Many homeschool students and families participate in the events, especially the competitions for youth that feature prizes: essay, artwork, memorial/historical landmark and the Patriot Idol. Cerone hopes that more students and families from all area schools will join in.
"We've really been reaching out to TCAPS," Cerone said.
Jody Ferry, the event co-founder, is Cerone's mother and a retired government and special education teacher from the Traverse City school district. The curriculum she used to teach the Constitution to her students was so uninspiring and unfocused, she was frustrated that the country's pivotal document did not receive better coverage.
About three years ago, an idea sparked.
"It just hit me: why don't we do a constitutional celebration, make it a family event and involve everybody," Ferry said.
Gathering a dedicated group of advisors, Ferry and Cerone first created the Founding Players, an educational troupe available to visit schools. Over the years, the players have evolved their presentation from a lecture format featuring major historical figures into a lively, relevant skit that keeps students' attention while teaching constitutional history and basics.
In 2011, the pair created the annual Constitution Celebration as a community outreach geared to all ages. They schedule it every year around the September 17 signing of the U.S. Constitution 225 years ago.
"It's just been a labor of love," said Ferry. "It's been fantastic and I have some really fantastic volunteers who are willing to work for it."