Celebration at Bell Tower ushers in new year

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 31, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — Between choruses of Happy Birthday and Auld Lang Syne, Coby Weant stood at the foot of the Bell Tower’s steps and rang in the new year.
His father, Scott, called it “the perfect ending to his birthday.”
Weant had no idea when he went to the annual Salisbury Bell Tower New Year’s eve celebration that his family had contacted organizers of the celebration.
“Today’s his birthday and we wanted to do something different that we’d never done before,” Scott Weant said.
But the experience wasn’t just unique for the Weants.
For the first time since 1974, New Year’s Eve-goers didn’t ring the bell inside the Bell Tower.
Safety concerns about the structure prompted organizers to look for alternatives.
This year, a retired bell from the Salisbury Fire Department was used for the celebration.
But the difference didn’t bother the 12-year-old birthday boy.
“It was real neat,” he said. “It was something different and unique.”
Betz McKeown, marketing and promotions manager for Downtown Salisbury, said the event had between 250 to 300 last year.
She said she didn’t expect the attendance to drop because of the unrung bell.
“I think the extra publicity about the tower might more people to come down and support the event and the tower itself,” she said before midnight.
For the first time, McKeown said, bashers were asked to bring their own bells to ring after the initial fire bell.
Judson Cureton and his wife, Jackie, were at the event for their second time.
Cureton said they came because the celebration had a “community feeling.”
“Being a part of the community and being supportive of our town,” Cureton said. “We’re celebrating one cause we all agree on: another year.”
Whistles, clappers and bells of all kinds rang out into the night after the midnight countdown.
As is tradition, John Cuthbertson was the first to ring the fire bell after having his name drawn.
After waiting his turn, Weant stood with his mother, Teresa, and his grandparents, listening to cheers from the crowd and random shouts of “Happy New Year.”
“This is libel to be an annual thing for us from now on,” Scott Weant said holding his son.