On Thursday, May 19, the stars will align across the Capitol lawn once again as thousands of parents, children and other supporters raise a unified voice for Michigan’s youngest learners. After five years, Star Power, organized with private funds by the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) and the Great Start Collaboratives and Parent Coalitions, has become the largest advocacy event dedicated to parents and children — birth to five — in Michigan. And it shows. As Legislative Days go, this one is a little different. Take for example: a “rock and rest tent” for hungry and tired babies, or catering requests by the thousands for healthy snacks and crust-less bread. But these items are among the necessities when an estimated 4,000 people — half of whom are children — descend on Michigan’s 148 legislators. Their mission: to connect with their lawmakers, share personal stories and discuss why investing in early childhood is critical for Michigan’s success. The backdrop this year is daunting: a $1.8 million state budget deficit and programs for children once again in jeopardy. Travelers, arriving by the bus- and car-load, will attend from as far north as Ontonagon (a 10-hour bus trip), and relatively nearby locales in Detroit. Health care, child care and support for parents and families are among top issues. Sarah Triplett, ECIC’s special events manager, said a lot of effort goes into preparing attendees — parents, educators and business people — in advance. “This legislative day is all the more important, because so many of our lawmakers are new members,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to speak to your legislator.” “Everything goes into making it a learning experience. It’s not all about balloons and bouncy houses,” she added. Still, it is one of the biggest free family fun days in the region. New this year is a parade starting at Cooley Law School Stadium, featuring the Waverly High School marching band, and traveling on Michigan Avenue to the Capitol lawn. Other highlights include: the MSU football team manning an obstacle course on the Capitol lawn, the musical group Juice, PNC Bank’s Mobile Learning Adventure, including the “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” photo station and tours of the Clinton Area Ambulance Service and the Dewitt Township Fire Truck. You don’t have to be a member of a Great Start Collaborative or Parent Coalition to attend. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, go to: http://greatstartforkids.org/star-power.