Festival of the Bells Story: "The Early Years"
As Told by John Levo W8KIW Local Community leader and Amateur Radio Enthusiast.
The Festival of the Bells is actually the by-product of the 1976 National Bicentennial. Mayor Betty Bishop asked Richard VanZant and I to co-chair the event which was named the leading small city Bicentennial celebration in Ohio.
Following it, Dr. Lawrence Odland (Liz’s father) approached the editor of the newspaper Jim Hardin with the idea to hold an annual festival capitalizing upon Hillsboro’s Bell Foundry and how those bells are found around the world. I was the president of the Chamber of Commerce at the time and Jim approached me for my thoughts about the Chamber sponsoring such an event. The Board thought it was worth pursuing if I would chair a committee of people from the community to put it on. And the rest is history.
The Committee consisted of some people who worked on the 1976 Committee so we had some experience under our belts. (People like Dorothy Hodson, Pam Limes, Ron Hennison, Jim Ferrell and Kay Rittenhouse. Pauline Donally and Rick Williams were added later). It was determined such a festival would be geared to bringing people downtown opposed to the fairgrounds. Therefore downtown merchants would be exposed to out of town visitors. Booth rentals were first made available to local groups to give them an opportunity to raise funds. Entertainment was to be by local bands, singers, and other performers. We had a teen dance with a disc jockey from WLW one evening and a square dance on another evening. The Hillsboro Fire Department conducted a parade.