Music from the Titus Canbe band filled the air as a few hundred people attended the first-ever Constitution Day celebration at Marietta's East Muskingum Park Sunday afternoon.
"For a couple of years we've been kicking around the idea of holding a family-friendly event for the community, but something always prevented it, so this year we decided to commemorate Constitution Day, although the actual day is on Monday," said Anita White, events chair for the Washington County Republican Party.
"We also have 1,000 U.S. Constitution booklets to hand out," she added.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Seven-year-old Lily Sands, left, and friend Christine Kerenyi, 6, peer over the railing on the upper deck of the Liberty USA ship on display during Sunday’s Constitution Day event at East Muskingum Park.
White said the party sponsored the event with help from the Marietta Women's Club.
"There were no political speeches, although we gave local candidates one minute each at the microphone to introduce themselves," she said. "This is just a goodwill gesture from the party that's open to the public."
Several GOP candidates were on hand to talk with folks who drifted into the park to listen to the music or grab a free hotdog and drink during the celebration. Games and other activities, including face-painting, were also available for the kids.
About the U.S. Constitution and Constitution Day:
Written in 1787, ratified in 1788, and in operation since 1789, the United States Constitution is the world's longest surviving written charter of government.
Since 1789, the Constitution has evolved through amendments to meet the changing needs of a nation now profoundly different from the eighteenth-century world in which its creators lived.
To encourage all Americans to learn more about the Constitution, Congress in 1956 established Constitution Week, to begin each year on September 17th, the date in 1787 when delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document.
In 2004, West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd included key provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2005 designating Sept. 17 of each year as Constitution Day and requiring public schools and governmental offices to provide educational programs to promote a better understanding of the U.S. Constitution.
Source: U.S. Senate
There were some non-partisan participants as well.
Ginny McVey was staffing a booth urging voter support for a Children Services Levy that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
"This will be a new levy to help replace funding cuts for Children Services from the federal, state and local levels," she explained. "We're handing out literature and copies of video presentations as well as answering questions about the levy."
The Washington County Children Services Board's mission is to protect abused and neglected children.
McVey said the 1.46-mill 10-year levy would translate to about $45 annually per $100,000 property valuation. The levy would restore the local school outreach prevention program and provide a prevention specialist in all six school districts.
"We're attending several events this fall to get the word out about the importance of this levy, and we also have a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/childrenservices," she said.
Nearby Jeff and Candy Waite were providing information about the Gospel Mission Food Pantry located at the Harmar Community Center on Lancaster Street.
"They invited us to come today, and have even taken some food and cash donations for the pantry," Jeff said. "But we also signed up some new volunteers, so it's been a win-win for us."
On the opposite side of the park Bob Feathers was helping other Project Bravo volunteers obtain signatures in Bibles bound for U.S. military personnel serving overseas.
"We work with different church organizations," he said. "Each takes a group of Bibles that local people can sign and give a donation, then we put the Bibles in boxes with other personal items and ship them to our soldiers in time for Christmas."
Feathers said the goal of Project Bravo is to ship a total of 4,500 boxes by Nov. 1 so they will reach their destinations for the holidays.
"That total not only includes Bibles and boxes from Project Bravo in Marietta, but also from other areas of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky," he said.
Feathers noted that Project Bravo was initiated in 2005 by Marietta native Valerie Winshell who started the program by sending just two boxes that year to soldiers overseas. More information about the program is available at www.projectbravo.org.
White said the Marietta Memorial Health System's bloodmobile was also on hand during Sunday's event and received several blood donations.
U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson, who attended Sunday's event, said it was a good community outreach.
"It's also a great opportunity to talk about the Constitution and the tremendous responsibility it provides so that people don't have to sit on the sidelines, but they can get involved with the whole civic process," he said. "And when I was in high school we studied the Constitution, but I don't believe that's required anymore."
Johnson, who carries his own 33-page copy, noted the U.S. Constitution has been around for 236 years but has changed very little during that time, mainly because the founding fathers purposefully made it difficult to alter the document ratification from all 50 states.