Bell Tower of Fame Award to reach milestone in 2017

Who will be the 50th? The 2017 Bell Tower of Fame Award recipient will be this milestone winner and the deadline for nominations is Monday, February 27. The person will join 49 past winners who, at some time in their lives, have lived in Greene County and whose personal or professional accomplishments statewide, nationally or internationally bring great pride to Greene County.

As the award approaches this milestone, Carole Custer, current chair of the selection committee and the 1981 Bell Tower Festival chair, reflected on the history of the award.

“How many times do we hear in conversations about movers and shakers across this nation having a connection to Greene County? It happens a lot! And the very first year of the festival we honored two Greene County native sons, George Gallup of Jefferson, creator of the internationally respected Gallup Poll, and Loren Shriver of Paton, a U.S. astronaut, as the grand marshals of the Bell Tower Festival parade. The first two festivals had an ‘Iowa Pride’ theme and the 1981 planning committee wanted to start the idea of annually at the festival honoring someone who, at some time in their life had resided in Greene County, and whose personal or professional accomplishments statewide, nationally or internationally, brought great pride to our county. The committee also wanted the honorees to be terrific examples of what the youth of Greene County could accomplish and the impact they could have as they entered their adult life and over their lifetime,” Custer explained.

So the Bell Tower of Fame Award was born in 1981 and the 1980 festival grand marshals, Gallup and Shriver, were the first two recipients. Del Van Horn of Jefferson, director of the Iowa Development Commission (now named the Iowa Economic Development Authority), was the 1981 winner.

“There were those in our community who thought we would surely run out of people to honor. But we haven’t. And, thanks to the efforts of many nominators, the honorees’ accomplishments have spun the globe,” Custer said.

The award has honored residents from the east and west coasts, from the south to the north, and also from Greene County. Recipients have lived in Jefferson, Paton, Grand Junction, Rippey, Scranton and Dana.

The president of one of the largest health care systems in the nation, the creator of the National Federation of Wildlife’s Ranger Rick magazine, and a member of New York City’s Vanguard Jazz Orchestra are just a few honorees who have called Greene County home. Click here for the full list.

Nominations can be submitted anytime, but for consideration this year, the deadline is Monday, February 27, at 5 pm at the Greene County Chamber office, 220 N. Chestnut, Jefferson, IA 50129. They are required to be submitted on the form that is available at the Chamber office or online at

Past nominations are kept on file and are reviewed by the selection committee, which consists of past Bell Tower of Festival chairs. “We encourage nominators to update their nominee’s form if new activities or awards are received that the committee needs to know when reviewing nominations each year,” Custer added.

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