As Gilbert’s sixth Constitution Fair approaches, the event meant to celebrate the unification of the United States has led to differences in the Town Council over whether to be a sponsor.
The event, set for Sept. 22, is primarily funded by private donors and sponsors, but the town last year spent $10,395 to provide security for the more than 11,000 attendees.
Vice Mayor Steve Urie said the town should reconsider that funding this year. During an Aug. 17-18 council retreat, he plans to discuss which events the town should fund in order to avoid rising costs of events held in town.
“We need to decide which events are going to be ours,” he said.
Organizers say the Constitution Fair is one of the most popular events in town — and that it could be a regional draw for Gilbert, much as Chandler has become known for its Ostrich Festival.
The fair has become the largest constitutional celebration in the nation, according to organizers, and has drawn a former U.S. Supreme Court justice, the U.S. secretary of education and country singer Lee Greenwood to speak or perform.
This year, nationally renowned artist Michael Israel will create five paintings on stage to patriotic music.
“We want it to be a unifying event because the Constitution is a great unifying document,” said co-chairman Bill Norton of the Constitution Week Committee which runs the event. “The value of this event far outweighs any political differences.”
Norton ran for the council against Urie and two other council members in the spring. And during last year’s Constitution Fair, signatures were collected on referendum petitions fighting an ordinance that made the willful and negligent use of water a misdemeanor.
Norton said event planners were not involved with the petitions.
This year, petitions are prohibited from the fair, and all booths are required to be “positive.”
And in response to concerns that not as many Democrats attended the fair as did Republicans, Democratic Party officials also are on the planning committee, Norton said.
The event, which begins at 6 p.m., is free to the public and will be at Mesquite High School.
Donors, two of whom will receive paintings by Israel, are being sought for the event, which is expected to cost $80,000, including some funds that could go toward security if town police don’t oversee the event.
For information, visit www.constitutionweek.com.