City of Salisbury to host Bell Tower celebration

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SALISBURY — New Year’s Eve party-goers, minglers and area hobnobbers won’t find Downtown Salisbury Inc. hosting the usual festivities at the old Presbyterian Bell Tower tonight.

But the party will go on, thanks to local artist Clyde, the City of Salisbury and others.

Since the site rang in the first day of 1975, local merrymakers have taken to the area around the tower at the corner of West Innes and Jackson streets to count down the year’s final moments and herald the new year.

But Molly Ruf, a project coordinator for Downtown Salisbury Inc., said the DSI board opted not to hold the festivities this year, citing “limited staff manpower.”

Ruf said the group may resume the tradition in the future, after the DSI board hires a new executive director. Randy Hemann left that post in May after 16 years to become city manager in Oxford.

Word spread quickly Monday after posted the story that no one was planning the community’s traditional New Year’s celebration, and DSI sent an email to merchants.

The news didn’t sit well with the artist formerly known as Clyde Overcash. He called the Post and declared the decision to call off the celebration a day before the festivities “pathetic.”

Clyde said he plans to see 2014 kick off as he has for nearly 40 years — at the bell tower.

“We are not not having it. We’re having it,” Clyde told the Post on Monday. “We’ve had it every year. It doesn’t take anything. Bring your candles and bells.”

Later in the day, city officials also took up the cause. City Manager Doug Paris said the city plans to host the celebration.

Details will be announced today, Paris said in an email to the Post.

“Please let folks know to bring a warm coat and a cheerful spirit for the new year,” he said.

Downtown merchants, like Critter’s Bob Lambrecht, were upset no one was notified of the decision sooner.

“Up until not too long ago it was listed on the DSI website that it was happening,” Lambrecht said.

Business owners received an email Monday afternoon, he said, notifying them of the change.

Lambrecht is a member of the Downtown Salisbury Inc. promotions committee. He said the committee hasn’t met since last May.

“It’s pretty disheartening,” he said.

Lambrecht said that downtown businesses pay fees to DSI for promotional events like the annual bell tower celebration.

“It’s pretty frustrating as a downtown merchant that these people who are entrusted with promoting us — I don’t know what they’re doing,” he said.

The bell tower celebration shifted in recent years after the Maxwell Chambers Trust, which owns the 1892 tower, had a construction adviser evaluate the structure in 2011. The tower was deemed too unstable to allow people to enter its alcove and ring the bell.

Since then, folks rang in the new year with a retired Salisbury Fire Department bell at the foot of the tower.

And that appears to be what will happen again this year.

When asked if he was going to the bell tower tonight, Lambrecht said, “I sure am.

“I’ve done it every year for six years,” he said. “It’s just a tradition.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.