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Centre County’s Constitution Day Celebration gets ‘bigger and better’ in third year

It’s only been a few years since Centre County started officially celebrating Constitution Day, but there’s already a need for a larger venue.

This year, the third annual free celebration will move from Grange Park to Tussey Mountain. Held 1-6 p.m. Sunday, it’s “bigger and better” than ever, Constitution Day Centre president Keith Bierly said.

Formally, Constitution Day, Sept. 17, is a federal observance that receives recognition in communities around the country, but Centre County did not have its own organized event until Bierly took it upon himself in 2016 to put together a group of volunteers to establish a local, annual Constitution Day celebration.

“I think what’s really original about our Constitution Day is the fact that we have 45-50 different exhibitors there that represent the Constitution,” Bierly said.

Exhibitors are arranged in a Constitution Village, with tents set up for select articles and amendments. Exhibitors include local experts qualified to speak on the particular amendment or articles they’re representing, as well as local social service agencies.

“We try to make it a living Constitution,” Bierly said. “So when you go to the First Amendment tent, you will see a rabbi, a journalism professor, a practicing journalist and a librarian. When you go to the Second Amendment, you will see a retired sheriff who was both a Marine and a state police officer and he will talk about the right to bear arms, and so on. ... It’s really a chance to learn more about the Constitution, no matter how much or how little you know now. You can really get a flavor for what our Constitution is about.”

Education is a main goal of the event, Bierly said.

“I think there are a lot of people in this country that the only three things they could identify about the Constitution would be the First, Second and Fifth Amendments,” he said. “They know they can speak, they know they have the right to bear arms and they know they can remain silent if they’re arrested. Beyond that, there isn’t a great deal of knowledge.”

The move from the grandstand at Grange Park to Tussey Mountain allows the event to expand its footprint.

“We will have three musical acts who will be blasting their music up the ski slopes, away from the Constitution Village,” Bierly said. “We will have more exhibitors, we will have more food trucks, we will have great speakers that I think will make it a bigger and better event than it’s been in the past.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is this year’s keynote speaker, accompanied by local judges, magistrates, mayors and private citizens who will give constitutional quotes representing their views on the U.S. Constitution.

New this year, the Constitution Day Centre will award its inaugural James Madison Award. This year’s honoree, as voted by the Constitution Day Centre board, is Pat Daugherty, owner of The Tavern restaurant in downtown State College. The award is intended to recognize community members who demonstrate an exemplary level of civility.

“Internally, on the board, we talked about various people in the community who we thought made a difference in part because of the way they treated everyone with respect and dignity,” Bierly said. “Pat, if you go into The Tavern restaurant, you think he always has a table just for you; he treats everyone just the same regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, religion. ... We think he represents that kind of civility we’d like to see more of in the community.”

Families attending the event will find kid-friendly activities such as face painting, balloon art and the chance to sign their name to a copy of the Constitution with help of a calligrapher. Each attendee receives a free copy of the Constitution and a slice of birthday cake to celebrate the Constitution’s official adoption.

For more information, visit http://www.constitutiondaycentre.org/.

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