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'These Bells Are Iconic': Minneapolis City Hall Bell Ringers Carry On Tradition

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – They've been chiming since the turn of the 20th century, filling the downtown walkways with bellowing melodies.

"These bells are iconic for the city of Minneapolis," Erin Delaney, Director of Municipal Building Commission said. "People set their watches to our bells."

To get to the bells at the top of the Minneapolis City Hall you pass through an old vault before inching up a tiny elevator to the 13th floor of the clock tower. Step out, and you'll find sweeping views and a set of 15 weathered bells, but you won't find anyone ringing them.

The room where someone used to play sits empty. A sheet draped over the old controls collects dust, but this tradition is not lost.

"I play the piano and the organ so I decided I would try," Pierre Girard said.

For an hour every week volunteers like Girard play this contraption.

"We're very proud of our tower here," Girard said.

These 25 keys were wired to the tower bells in the 70's.

"It just made it much easier to play the bells," Delaney added.

Girard doesn't climb the 300 stairs his predecessors did, but the gig comes with other pressures.

"When you make a mistake. That's when it really hits home, but otherwise it's enjoyable," Girard explained.

The original bell ringer played for 60 years and eventually passed the torch on to his son and grandson.

"I always had a lot of respect for them," Girard said.

Now Pierre carries the torch of tradition.

"I would like to have probably close to 50 bells at least," Girard added.

Though he has fresh ideas.

"That's my dream, win the lottery and give that as a donation for all the fun that I've had here," Girard said.

Sure, the modern pace of downtown can be thrilling, but there's something about the sound of these old city bells that can make time slow down, even if only for a minute.

"It's really just a part of the fabric and the history of this great city," Delaney said.

Concerts are every Friday from noon to one. There are special concerts for holidays.

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