Bennington Bell Ringing
Tradition holds that bells rang out in Philadelphia when the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in 1776. A Resolution signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 asked civic and community leaders throughout the country to promote the practice of ringing bells on the 4th of July.
Members of the Bennington Rotary Club decided that since the Town is the custodian of the bell from the USS Bennington, it should be rung on Independence Day. The USS Bennington was a WWII air craft carrier that served through the Vietnam War. The ship itself was scrapped in the early 1970s, but the bell was entrusted to the care of the Town of Bennington, and is displayed on the front lawn of the Town Offices. “This will be our fifth year of presenting the bell ringing ceremony,” said Jerry Albert, president of the Bennington Rotary Club. “We’ll have the event rain or shine. But every year the rain has either held off or stopped in time for the ringing.”
The ceremony is short; after the Pledge of Alliance to the Flag and the singing of the National Anthem, 13 club members line up to strike the ship’s bell 13 times to honor each of the original United States. Since Vermont was the 14th state to join the nation, the ship’s bell is also rung one additional time. “Every year we have given the honor of ringing the bell for Vermont to an outstanding organization or individual that serves the community,” said Albert. It has been reported that Troop B of the Vermont Army National Guard has been called up to be deployed to Iraq early next year. “It is only fitting,” he added, “that our Club has invited representatives of the Guard to be this year’s Vermont bell ringer.”
Members of the public who would like to be part of this celebration are asked to gather at the Bennington Town Hall, 205 South Street, at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 4. After the ceremony anyone who would like may have a turn to ring this historic ship’s bell is invited to do so.