We’ve enjoyed our holiday jingle bells, and now other bells resound. BellFest — the National Bell Festival — is set to take place for the first time this New Year’s Day with a full day of revelry ringing in our ears.
Designed to celebrate history with a specific lens on DC’s bells and bell-towers, BellFest hopes to reignite an appreciation for bell towers as sentinels of the city… and raise critical funding for the care and restoration of historic bells. On the first day of the year, bells in towers across the nation’s capital will ring out together and unite the community around listening parties, eclectic events, and special programming.
Bells will sound overhead in a city-wide ringing at 2:00 pm, with participating towers including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Old Post Office Tower, Washington National Cathedral, and more.
You can participate at ground level, with free special events offered all across the city. Some of our favorites include checking out the Ring Around the Resound: Ancient Bells of China exhibit at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; hearing the Washington National Cathedral ring its bells in a rare full peal attempt; enjoying a community carillon recital from the soaring Knights’ Tower at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; experiencing a 20-minute city-wide bell ringing including the Bell of Peace and Harmony; and learning all about campanology from bellmaker, Benjamin Sunderlin.
For its first service project, BellFest will refurbish the old bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church on Wisconsin Avenue. Cast in 1780, the bell was lost in the Civil War and recovered decades later, but hasn’t rung since. In commemoration of the congregation’s 250th anniversary, BellFest will fund the restoration and installation of this bell as a historic artifact of the Georgetown community.