Local plans set for Bicentennial Bell tour

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 8, 2003

It is the state's present to Lawrence County, in honor of Ohio's 200th birthday. And local leaders want to make certain that as many people as possible get a glimpse of Lawrence County's Bicentennial Bell.

They also want this symbol of statehood to be a unifying force for a county that is divided into 14 townships and seven municipalities within its miles and miles of hills, farms and woodlands. The Lawrence County Bicentennial Bell Tour Committee is finalizing plans to take the bell on a two-day odyssey throughout the county, stopping along the way to allow folks to see and even ring the 400-pound bronze creation.

"This is really going to unite the county," Bell Tour Committee member Bill Dingus said. "This will be the biggest effort ever done in linking all the people in the county. By the time the trip is over, the bell will come within four or five miles of two-thirds of the county's population."

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"I think after this, people will realize that we are one county," committee member Dave Milem said. "I hope it helps us (to unite) in other areas as well."

The bell will be made on site at the Lawrence County Fair July 7 by the Verdin Company of Cincinnati. The Verdin Company was commissioned by the state to make a bell in and for each county during the state's bicentennial year.

The bell will be on display at the fairgrounds for approximately a week after its completion. Then this local centerpiece of the state's birthday celebration will take its show on the road.

The traveling exhibit begins its odyssey July 19, at the fairgrounds. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6878 of Proctorville will host a pancake breakfast and then conduct a short ceremony that will mark the official start of the journey.

At that time, the bell will be hoisted onto a trailer and pulled by an antique truck on the first leg of its trip to the Scottown Covered Bridge.

After the 15-minute stop in Scottown, the procession will continue on to Symmes Valley High School. The cavalcade will

stop at there for approximately one-half hour.

At that point, the trailer carrying the bell will be hitched to an antique tractor for its trip to Linnville and the Doris Higgins Farm. County residents who own antique tractors are invited to follow behind in a farm-flavored parade.

"The parade of tractors is meant to show the significance of farming in our county's history," Dingus said.

Those who have an antique tractor and want to be a part of the parade may contact Albert Childers at 867-8272.

The two-hour stop at the Higgins farm will allow time for a picnic lunch and an opportunity for those who have not seen the barn to do so.

The Higgins' barn is the official bicentennial barn for Lawrence County.

When the bell leaves the Higgins farm, it will be pulled by a team of horses. Others with horses and wagons or who want to ride along on horseback to accompany the bell are encouraged to also call Childers.

"At each stop we need to encourage the people who come to join in and go with us to the next stops on the trip," Milem said.

After an hour-long stop at Symmes Creek Church, the bell will continue on its way to Collins Career Center at Getaway for what may be the largest celebration of the two day-trip.

Collins Career Center Superintendent Steve Dodgion said the Saturday night "Hoedown" will feature live entertainment.

"Chuck Black (WLGC radio personality) has committed to emcee the event," Dodgion said. "We have five bands scheduled to play, culminating with Howie Damron. There will be a square dance caller. This will have an old-fashioned feel to it."

"This is going to be awesome," Childers said of Dodgion's plans.

The "hoedown" begins at 5 p.m. The overnight event is meant to be a family affair.

Dodgion said alcoholic beverages will not be permitted. Those who come to the festivities Saturday night are encouraged to attend a non-denominational church service and breakfast the following morning.

After the church service Sunday morning, the bell, accompanied by a parade of antique cars, will depart the Collins Career Center for a noon appearance in Proctorville, followed by a visit to Chesapeake one-half hour later.

The bell cavalcade will make two stops in Burlington -- one at Heartland of Riverview Nursing Home and one at the Historic Jail in Burlington before moving on to South Point in the early afternoon.

The bell will make it way to the Paul Porter Park in Coal Grove at 3 p.m. and will then stop at its final resting place, the Lawrence County Courthouse at 6 p.m. Sunday afternoon.