Constitution city

Philadelphia is throwing a party, marking the 200th birthday of the United States Constitution. This year, millions of people are expected to visit Independence Hall, birthplace of the famous document. And the city's grand celebration, ``We the People 200,'' features an impressive array of festivals, fireworks, parades, and exhibits from May through September. Here are some of the highlights: Roundup of special events

Memorial Day weekend: ``All Roads Lead to Philadelphia'' celebrates the convening of the Constitutional Convention.

May 22. Festivities start with a free outdoor concert on the grand Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where ``Born in America'' will play diverse American music.

May 23-24. The ``1787 Festival'' takes visitors back in time to sample Colonial foods, visit an Indian village, learn how soap and candles were made, talk to people in powdered wigs and bonnets, and enjoy Colonial music.

May 25. The present governors and other current leaders of the 13 original states will take part in a public ceremony on Independence Mall marking the date the convention was called to order.

July 4th weekend: ``Freedom Festival'' will be one of the biggest Fourth of July parties in the nation, featuring three evenings of music, fireworks, and fun, including a hot-air-balloon race, some of America's best marching bands, ``Freedom Fourth Food Festival'' on the waterfront, the Army's Spirit of America Pageant, and Philadelphia's one-of-a-kind Mummers.

July 16. Congress has been invited to meet in Philadelphia on the anniversary of the Constitutional Convention's Great Compromise. It will be the first session held outside Washington, since Congress left Philadelphia in 1800.

Aug. 7-16. ``Only in America'' will present the works of some of the country's most exciting visual and performing artists, on Independence Mall.

Aug. 22-23. The action drifts to the Delaware River waterfront, featuring majestic flotillas, tempting seafood, and demonstrations by the Navy.

Constitutional Day, Sept. 17: ``Grand Federal Procession'' will take place on Constitution Day to honor the signing of the Constitution. What is billed as the largest parade ever mounted in America, the ``Grand Federal Procession,'' will start from four points of the city and meet at the Liberty Bell. Later on, the President, chief justice, and congressional leaders will lead a public rally outside Independence Hall to honor the Constitution.

All summer. In addition to scheduled festivals and events, Independence National Historical Park offers special activities every day. Visitors can use the park's soapbox to speak freely on any subject, exercising the First Amendment.

Other events May to December:

``Miracle at Philadelphia,'' at the Second Bank of the United States, allows visitors to pose as delegates and witness a re-creation of the top-secret Constitutional Convention, where leaders debated over how to elect a president. They can also see a multimedia exhibit of Charles Willson Peale's portraits, Benjamin Franklin's copy of the Constitution, and James Madison's notes.

A copy of the Magna Carta, a precursor to the Constitution, will be displayed in a reproduction of a medieval tent in Old City Hall.

An exhibit called ``A Promise of Permanency,'' opens tomorrow at the Independence National Historical Park Visitor Center. This interactive computer center lets visitors see how the Constitution has endured. Philadelphia's prominent orchestras will perform.

``Born Out of Time,'' a multimedia show exploring Benjamin Franklin's contributions to the modern world, is given at the Franklin Institute.

``Framing the Constitution: The Artists' Record,'' is an exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

``The Athens of the Western World: Federal Philadelphia 1785-1825'' is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

``Red, White, and Blue: Childhood & Citizenship'' is at the hands-on Please Touch Museum for Children (June 1987-May 1988).

Pennsylvania Ballet's ``Stars and Stripes Forever,'' Sept. 16-27.

``A More Perfect Union: The American People and the Constitution'' is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (June 18-Dec. 14). - Kirsten Conover

For further information about ``We the People 200'' and Philadelphia, write to the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1515 Market St., Suite 2020, Philadelphia, PA 19102, or call 800-523-2004, ext. 87.

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