The annual Ring That Bell ceremony, conducted for the past 42 years in Sun City, will again be offered this year.
A number of local dignitaries and elected officials have spoken at the event through the years, while a variety of singers and dancers have entertained those in attendance with patriotic performances. But the real star of the program has — and always will be — the community’s own exact replica of the famed Liberty Bell.
One of the most popular and visited landmarks in Sun City, the bell shares a prominent location in Memorial Garden alongside a statue of Del E. Webb, the community’s founder.
The creation of the Liberty Bell was truly a community effort.
In preparation for the nation’s 1976 bicentennial celebration, Sun City residents came up with the idea of the bell, believing it would have permanence long after festivities marking the nation’s 200th birthday ended.
Del E. Webb Development Corp. officials agreed to pay for the project, but a community campaign was launched to collect metal to construct the bell. More than 1,500 residents gathered in the parking lot of Sun City Stadium Jan. 15, 1976, to donate more than 7,000 pounds of scrap metal. The stadium, long-since demolished, once was the spring training home to Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers.
The metal was processed by a Philadelphia foundry and then shipped to Arsten, Holland, where the bell was cast in the exact same mold used to create the original Liberty Bell. The famous crack in Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell had to be simulated and manually put onto Sun City’s bell.
The bell arrived in Sun City July 5, 1976 and was unveiled during a July 8 Sun Bowl ceremony. It was officially dedicated at Bell Center Nov. 11, 1976. A time capsule, set to open in five years, is buried at the base.
The Liberty Bell has since become the centerpiece of the community’s annual Ring that Bell Fourth of July Celebration.
Although not confirmed, popular legend claims Sun City’s bell is one of only a handful of replica Liberty Bells cast from the original Liberty Bell mold — and the only one in existence not behind ropes, under glass or otherwise restricted to the public.
Doug Morris, former editor of the Sun City Citizen newspaper (now the Sun City Independent), came up with the idea of the Ring that Bell ceremony. Since most Liberty Bell replicas were roped off from public contact, Morris wanted residents to step up and “ring the bell for freedom.” Visitors to the bell are encouraged to ring the bell to proclaim their independence and celebrate the nation’s freedoms — not just on July 4, but every day.