Fundraising campaign under way to complete carillon on bell tower

Goal is to have 4-octaves complete by October 50th anniversary celebration

GCNO photo
GCNO photo

Grow Greene County in its inaugural grant awards kicked off a campaign to raise funds to complete a 4-octave carillon on the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower to mark the 50th anniversary of the construction of the tower.

Bell Tower Community Foundation president Carole Custer said the $61,500 grant to purchase the two largest and most expensive bells still needed demonstrates the confidence and support required to make the campaign successful.

Through contributions already received, the Foundation has accumulated $195,000 towards the total project, which is estimated at about $440,000. Money bequeathed to the Foundation from the Paul Nally estate, a recent $10,000 donation by Velma Radebaugh, the purchase of a bell by the McAtee family just last month and donations and memorials from a variety of families have helped support this endeavor so far.

A Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant application has been submitted to the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Vision Iowa program. A goal for the 50th anniversary campaign has not been set, pending notification of that grant. If the grant is funded, the project will still require significant contributions from the community.

The project will include the purchase of 15 additional bells with strikers, ranging in price from $3,500 to $15,750 and their installation, along with the installation of the 15 bells, still in need of strikers, already purchased by donors and on display in the Greene County courthouse.

“With the help of our citizens, the Foundation is committed to finally completing this legacy that started 50 years ago with the construction of the tower and the initial purchase of 14 bells,” Custer said. “The Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower was created 50 years ago because of a man’s business success and Bell Tower of Fame awardees, whose names are engraved on a plaque inside the tower, also represent personal or professional success, so completing the carillon during its 50th birthday also will stand tall as another success.”

The completion of the carillon will allow for carillon concerts played by local and visiting musicians, actual bell music that can be played to celebrate sports achievements and community accomplishments, and selected music for people’s birthdays, weddings, and other special occasions as requested. “To finally, after all these years, have a full set of bells that have such rich tones, will bring added enjoyment to Greene Countians and visitors,” Custer said.

With the completion of the CAT grant application, the Foundation is now encouraging area families to purchase the 15 remaining bells. A family name can be inscribed on the bell for free and all bell donors/recipients and major donors will be acknowledged on a donor wall at the tower, Custer explained.

The purchase of the two most expensive bells needed, the largest G# and C# (to represent Greene County), made possible by the Grow Greene County grant, kickstarts the public campaign. The goal is to have it completed successfully by the tower’s 50th birthday celebration on Sunday, October 16, this year.

“The Foundation and Greene County have worked very hard together to build this landmark into a tourist attraction that brings out community pride and attracts visitors from across the nation,” she said. “Of course, the biggest influx of visitors happens during the annual Bell Tower Festival, which this year is helping us celebrate the 50th anniversary of the tower.”

“We’ve been supported by the Jefferson Telephone Charitable Trust and the Kiwanis Club of Jefferson for providing funds to allow all 18-year olds and younger have free admission to the tower; the Tower View Team from Main Street Jefferson through its various art projects; and Greene County Chamber of Commerce for its promotional support and organizing bus tours that include visits to the tower. We couldn’t have come this far without support from both the city of Jefferson and Greene County and thousands of visitors, both area families who bring their visiting relatives and friends and those who are visiting because of our wonderful bike trail, Lincoln Highway, and Wild Rose Casino.

“We now ask families and friends to step up and purchase bells or make donations as a lasting legacy to their multi-generational families or in memory of loved ones or acknowledgements of a person or organization’s outstanding service. Fifteen bells, that’s all there is,” Custer said.

Persons interested in purchasing bells should contact Custer at 515-370-0009. Donations can be sent to the Bell Tower Community Foundation, c/o Greene County Chamber of Commerce, 220 North Chestnut, Jefferson, Iowa 50129

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