'The party starts today': Belleville rings in city's 200th year

News-DemocratJanuary 1, 2014 

Belleville residents gathered on the city's Public Square downtown on New Year's Day 2014 to welcome in the city's Bicentennial Year. Starting at 2 p.m., people rang all sorts of bells for two minutes, in honor of the city's 200th birthday.

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— For two minutes after 2 p.m., residents jingled sleigh bells, cowbells and tambourines at Curt's Clock in downtown Belleville to ring in the New Year and celebrate the city's bicentennial.

The Belleville Bicentennial Committee organized the gathering to kick off the city's 200th anniversary year, a throwback to a similar event for the city's 100th birthday.

"The party starts today," Mayor Mark Eckert said to the crowd of more than a hundred as he held a silver bell the size of a small bowling ball. "We've got lots of great plans... we need more volunteers."

The committee has planned monthly events: A goal to do 200 service projects, a parade in April, free concerts for Oktoberfest and more. The next major event is a gala in March.

Erin and Alan Wittlich brought their two boys and their neighbors' daughters, shaking sleigh bells, jingle bells, a tambourine and a bell from a lamp.

"Our children love Belleville," Erin Wittlich said. "We felt like this is an event they can look back on and say they were a part of the bicentennial."

Clemence Mudd Jr. brought a bell that used to alert his father to his barber shop customers on East Main Street across from Douglas School.

Mudd, accompanied by his daughter and granddaughter, said the bell must be about 50 years old and he was happy to bring it to a bicentennial event.

"We're going to use this bell in 100 years again," Mudd said.

Cheryl Yarber, a member of the Bicentennial Committee, brought her German Shepherd, Cane, decked in beads and green bells from her Christmas tree.

"We thought we should have a four-legged, German representative since we're celebrating our German history," Yarber said.

Attendees also signed a book marking their participation in a bicentennial event.

For more information on events or how to volunteer, visit www.belleville200.com.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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