By Rachel Anderson EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – The American Legion Big Sky Post 99 will host its first oratory contest at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 5 p.m.

The contest will feature local high school students who will each prepare a speech between 8 and 10 minutes in length. Their delivery will be on any aspect of the U.S. Constitution with an emphasis on citizens’ duties and obligations to our government.

Post 99 Adjutant Dick Allgood is helping spearhead the event, and says the American Legion wants to expand the youth programs offered in the community. He hopes to make the competition an annual event.

“We’ve been wanting to do [this oratory contest] for a long time, but we’ve never had a way to get it going and get the energy behind it,” Allgood said, adding that Post Commander Kenny Alley has taken special pride in the event. “We’ve got a lot of worker bees behind the scenes on this thing.”

The first-place winner at the Big Sky contest will receive a $200 cash prize; second $100; and third $50. Post 99 will provide an American Legion tack pin to each contestant to honor his or her participation in the contest.

The winner will advance to the district competition held in Bozeman on Feb. 7 at American Legion Hall Post 14. American Legion posts from Big Sky, Bozeman and Livingston will send a winner to the district level.

At the district competition, participants will be required to present their own prepared oration along with an additional speech. The second topic will be drawn from one of four categories involving some phase of the U.S. Constitution, selected from Articles and Sections, and the speeches will be 3-5 minutes in length.

Judges will determine the rankings and who will advance at all levels of the competition, and the state oratory contest will be held Feb. 28 at the Montana National Guard Armory in Belgrade.

Lone Peak High School civics teacher Tony Coppola will be the master of ceremonies for the Big Sky contest.

“We are very fortunate to have the energy of our Sons of the American Legion, [and] both Jeremy Harder and Tony Copolla are members of the squadron,” Allgood said. “They were able to get behind it to make it happen.”

The public is encouraged to attend the event, and admission is free.