Record visits to the bell tower in 2015

GreeneCountyNewsOnline photo
GreeneCountyNewsOnline photo

The number of visitors at the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower topped 5,000 for the first time, Carole Custer, president of the Bell Tower Community Foundation Carole Custer reported to the county supervisors Monday.

According to Custer, the visitor count totaled 5,144, with 3,138 adults and 2,006 children. She thanked the Jefferson Telephone Charitable Trust for making free admission for children possible the past two years. The Jefferson Kiwanis Club will donate to cover the cost of children’s admissions in 2016.

The visit count has more than doubled in four years. According to Custer’s data, the total count was 2,322 in 2012, 2,692 in 2013, and 3,586 in 2014. Custer said that being open weekends in May, September and October has boosted the count, as well as more advertising. In conversation with the supervisors, the Pedaler’s Jamboree and the increase in bus tours were also mentioned.

Custer reported that tourism income at the bell tower exceeded $11,000. She thanked the Greene County Community Foundation for a $4,800 grant for refurbishing the atrium and the Rotary Club of Jefferson for a grant for a publication in anticipation of the tower’s 50th anniversary. She also thanked the supervisors for funding the repair of the bell mechanisms so the Westminster chimes can play.

The Foundation is planning a 50th anniversary celebration with a re-dedication Sunday, Oct. 16. The Foundation hopes to have bell concerts, banners around the courthouse square, and a new history book completed. Custer asked the supervisors to consider a one-time allocation of $3,000 for the anniversary celebration.

She also asked for an increase from $7,500 to $8,000 in the county’s funding to the Foundation, saying the additional money would be used for statewide advertising. The annual allocation is in addition to paying regular maintenance of the bell tower.

Custer said the Foundation hopes to be able to announce by next October that funding is in place for the completion of the 4-octave carillon, a project with a $465,000 price tag. The Foundation had planned to seek half of that amount as a Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant from Vision Iowa, but then learned that $80,000 is the most that would be funded by Vision Iowa.

The Foundation is looking for support for that project from the county, the city of Jefferson, members of the public, Grow Greene County, and possible hotel/motel tax revenues.

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