Winners of the Patriots In The Park essay contest gather in front of City Hall in Granite City on June 16.
Serina Vanestler did it again this year.
For the second year in a row, Vanestler won the Patriots in the Park Essay Contest, placing first in the eighth-grade division for her six-paragraph essay on “Pledge To Freedom,” which is the theme for this year’s Patriots in the Park Celebration that will start on July 1 at Wilson Park.
“I was very honored to win this,” said Vanestler, who graduated from St. Elizabeth School and will attend Granite City High School this fall. “It was a great thing to read it at City Hall.”
The Patriots in the Park essay contest is divided into 10 divisions from kindergarten to high school. The top three in each division receive a medal.
The 13-year-old Vanestler was one of three St. Elizabeth students who won the essay contest. The others were Gwyn Hale in the fourth-grade division and Meaghan Pamatot in the third-grade division.
Vanestler said she found out about her victory last month, when her principal announced it over the intercom at school.
“It was the first time I heard of it, so it was a shock to me and all of my other classmates,” she said.
In her essay, Vanestler wrote that her pledge to freedom is “to treat it respectfully, live up to my expectations of being a citizen and to doing my part to protect these freedoms I love so much.” She said it took an hour to write her essay.
Holy Family School had a total of 16 students who placed in the essay contest, five of them finished first. They were Mia Moore (kindergarten), Lennon Petroski (first grade), Aiden Johnson (fifth grade), Kenzi Barrington (sixth grade) and Margaret London Kimble (seventh grade).
Selena Perkins placed first in the high school division and she was the only contestant in that group. Layla Rydgig of Worthen Elementary won the second-grade division.
Last year’s theme for the Patriots in the Park festival was “This Is My Country.” Granite City Park District director Dave Williams said the theme is selected by the Patriots In the Park Committee, which consists of 11 members.
“There are a variety of folks from throughout the community and several of our staff members also serve on the committee,” he said. “The main thing we do with the theme is the essays. Then, we had an essay contest that wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. On Tuesday (June 16) at the City Council meeting, the Mayor (Ed Hagnauer) and the City Council heard the essays read to them and the Mayor presented medals to them all.”
Williams said he expects a big turnout for the Patriots in the Park festival, which will be in its 19th year.
“What makes this such a community event in my mind is our goal is to put on a family oriented show,” he said. “We try to do a little bit something for everybody varying in age and what they like to do. But we couldn’t have done it without our sponsors. We have great corporate sponsors which each year we raise about $40,000 in donations to help underride the cost of the show.”
Among the corporate sponsors for the festival are U.S. Steel, Gateway Regional Medical Center and Prairie Farms Dairy.
The festival begins at 6 p.m. on July 1 and ends at 5 p.m. on July 5. Carnival coupons can be purchased for $2, which is good for all rides, on July 1 and July 5.
Williams said the main entertainment this year will be the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America. The band will be performing on the main stage from 7:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. on July 4.
“It’s a 50-piece big band that will play for an hour and 45 minutes of patriotic music leading to our fireworks,” Williams said.
The fireworks show will start at 9:15 p.m. on July 4 at the Coolidge Middle School grounds.
Other events at the festival include a car show on July 5, a 5K run on July 3 and a double-elimination softball tournament on July 3-5. The cost for the 5K run is $25 and there’s an entry fee of $125 per team for the softball tournament.
Also, arm bands can be purchased for $22 from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. on July 2 and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. on July 5.
2015 PATRIOTS IN THE PARK ESSAY CONTEST
1. Mia Moore, Holy Family
2. Aiden Parkenson, Holy Family
3. Tyler Nonn, Holy Family
1. Lennon Petroski, Holy Family
2. Alexis Pekarik, Holy Family
3. Greta LeMaster, Holy Family
1. Layla Rydgig, Worthen
2. Austin Gallegos, Worthen
3. Ethan Shrum, Worthen
1. Meaghan Pamatot, St. Elizabeth
2. Alec Sheridan, Holy Family
3. Thomas Halbrook, Holy Family
1. Gwyn Hale, St. Elizabeth
2. Christopher Taylor, Holy Family
3. Yeraldine Barera, Prather
1. Aiden Johnson, Holy Family
2. Lauren Propes, Holy Family
3. Marco Garcia, St. Elizabeth
1. Kenzi Barrington, Holy Family
2. Kayli Mance, Holy Family
3. Michael Pritchard, Holy Family
1. Margaret London Kimble, Holy Family
2. Vanessa Luna, St. Elizabeth
3. Sydnie Sitzes, Holy Family
1. Serina Vanestler, St. Elizabeth
2. Jacob Woods, St. Elizabeth
3. Abby Knobeloch, St. Elizabeth
1. Selena Perkins, GCHS