Peace Bell to ring on New Year's Eve

NEWPORT — The World Peace Bell will get another ring on New Year's Eve.

The 66,000-pound bell will ring for the first time in 10 years at midnight to bring in the New Year in Newport.

The Kentucky Enquirer reports the ringing will mark the first time the bell has swung into action since its arrival in Kentucky from Nantes, France, in 1999.

Newport's special events coordinator Sal Wertheim wanted to mark the 10th anniversary of the bell.

"This is a celebration for the people," Wertheim told the northern Kentucky newspaper. "The bell will be open for anyone to come in and touch the bell."

The original concept for the World Peace Bell included placing it at the top of a 600- to 1,200-foot tower and building the world's largest carillon. That didn't happen, but the bell's backers say its first decade of existence is worth celebrating.

The bell has attracted many military veterans, said Jim Verdin, president of the Verdin Co., which made the bell. The bell site has been host to multiple events, such as the anniversary of 9/11, Patriots' Day and Fourth of July memorial services.

"I think it is one of those things that will grow over time," Verdin said. "For the last couple of years, more people are visiting the bell."

Former U.S. Veterans Affairs administrator Harry Walters said the bell served as the inspiration for the Veterans Tribute Tower Project, an effort to build bell towers in every state as a tribute to veterans. Walters, in cooperation with the Verdin Co., started the project in 2008 that has so far built bell towers in Ohio, Indiana, Florida and Utah.

The World Peace Bell's owner, local developer Wayne Carlisle, said the bell has served as a symbol of freedom.

"I'm proud it was built and here for the start of the millennium," Carlisle said. "A whole lot of people got to witness it swinging. What it represented was freedom and peace. Little did we know that 9/11 would come 18 months later."