Thousands flocked to the Gilbert Civic Center on Saturday night for the 16th annual Constitution Fair, where attendees celebrated the nation-forging document on its 230th birthday.
For many of the more than 150 volunteers who worked to set up the event, the fair was a chance to give back to their home.
“I came and showed up for the first meeting, and then, ever since then, I was hooked,” said Lucas Melendez, a Gilbert police cadet who has volunteered for the past three years. “I love serving Gilbert and helping the people.”
Melendez said he was proud to be part of the event and to support the community.
“Not many towns do something like this,” he said. “I think it’s awesome that Gilbert specifies a day to celebrate the Constitution and everything it’s about. I think it’s wonderful.”
On the anniversary of the document being signed, an annual night of fireworks, games, musical performances and character actors draws approximately 6,000 attendees from Gilbert and beyond to step back in time for the family-friendly fair.
Jeff Smith, a four-year volunteer, spent the evening handing out U.S. monument trading cards to children while playing the part of James Madison.
He said being there gave him a chance to live the history and honor the nation’s founding document.
“I’m personally a big fan of the Constitution, and it’s a way that I can celebrate (it),” Smith said. “It feels like I can be a little more involved.”
The event is a staple of Gilbert, said Dwayne Farnsworth, the president of We the People USA, the non-profit in charge of putting on the event every year.
The organization is supported by Gilbert’s leadership, but the town does not provide any money for the event. It is privately funded through donations from the community.
“It’s not a town-sponsored event, but it is certainly a town-supported event,” Farnsworth said.
Gilbert’s Constitution Fair is the largest of its kind in the country.
“We’re not aware of a larger Constitution celebration in the United States,” Farnsworth said.
But that title is one organizers would be happy to shed, he said.
“We’re trying to change that. We would like to expand out and offer our experience in how this works to other communities,” Farnsworth said.
In the political climate of 2017, he added, events like this one are even more important because they remind the people what the United States stands for.
“If there’s a place that we can come together, and there needs to be, it’s in regards to the Constitution,” he said. “We all have … ownership of this document, which has provided our prosperity. It has provided our liberties and freedoms that don’t exist in other countries, to a large degree.”
Another of the volunteers, Gilbert police cadet John Boyle, agreed, saying the event was to remind the town to be thankful for where they live.
“It’s definitely something we want to celebrate,” Boyle said. “We live in one of the best countries in the world.”
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