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World Peace Bell is celebration centerpiece

By Jan Perry, Post contributor

It doesn't matter if you count it as the last year of this millennium or the first year of the next one, New Year's Eve offers a once-in-a-thousand-years opportunity to celebrate ... and celebrate big.

Big as in a day-long event featuring interfaith prayers, children's activities and multi-cultural entertainment.

Big as in hourly observances scheduled as 2000 begins in each time zone around the world.

Big as in Miss America singing.

And big as in the 33-ton World Peace Bell swinging as the new year reaches Newport and the ''Ring in 2000'' celebration.

''It's been a little crazy,'' said Debby Redden, executive assistant at the Millennium Monument Co. (which along with the Southbank Partners economic development group is hosting the event). ''We're still taking care of details, but everything's just about set for the bi g day.''

That day starts at 6 on New Year's Eve morning when the year 2000 begins on the Pacific Island of Tonga. The 12-foot-by-12-foot bell will be rung from its stationary position (via electronic striker) each hour as the new year reaches the next time zone.

A peace vigil with prayers representing diverse religions is part of the early morning observance, as multi-cultural involvement is the theme of the day.

''People from all over the world have been invited to participate,'' said Ms. Redden. ''We have representatives coming from at least 16 of the 24 time zones and are hoping to have more confirmed before the weekend.''

From noon to 5 p.m. it's family fun as the children's festival offers peace related arts and crafts for kids. Fashoo the juggler, the Winter Puppet Show and the Redd Khatt Jazz Band will entertain.

An Interfaith Peace Celebration (2:30-4 p.m.) will feature words, poems and prayers from various nationalities and denominations including the Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jain, Jewish and Sikh religions.

''We wanted a day with something that would appeal to everyone,'' said Wally Pagan, Southbank Partners president. ''We think we've planned something special with a continuing schedule of events that will build up to the big moment we've all been waiting for.''

Afternoon and early evening entertainment will include performances by Lagniappe, Silver Arms and the Sol Caribe Steel Drums. Music will continue throughout the evening with Gamut of Rock & Roll.

As part of the World Peace Bell celebration, the Syndicate (18 E. Fifth St., Newport) has been turned over to the Millennium Monument Co. for four gala party packages. The three more expensive packages have sold out. Still available is the ''Night Life'' (9:30 p.m.-4 a.m., $125 per person, black-tie optional) party at Cicero's dance club, which features bell activities broadcast on video screens. To reserve: 655-9500 or 655-7700.

The countdown program begins at 11 p.m., with Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton and Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, as well as local officials from both sides of the river, speaking. A wall of flames on the bell tower will signal the lighting of the eternal flame by Corporex president Bill Butler and The Post's student essay winners. Miss America 2000, Kentucky's Heather French, will sin g ''Let There Be Peace On Earth'' and then lead the crowd in ''Auld Lang Syne.''

And, as the new year arrives locally, the huge bronze bell will take its inaugural swing, ringing in 2000 with style.

''We are all looking forward to actually hearing the bell when it swings that first time,'' said Carolyn Zink, public relations and advertising chairman for ''Ring in 2000.'' ''That's the one thing we have all been waiting for.''

The ''Ring in 2000'' celebration grounds are between Fourth and Fifth and Monmouth and York streets. A $5 commemorative pin (available now at Kentucky Haus, Party Source stores in Bellevue and Florence and all Thriftway stores, as well as on-site on Friday) will provide admittance for the evening. Activities before 5 p.m. are free. Food and beverages will be available.

In Newport, parking will be available at the Newport Aquarium lot as well as other pay lots and wherever street parking is permitted. The Southbank Shuttle (25 cents) will be making regular rounds from Covington to Cincinnati to Newport every 15 minutes. A special free shuttle will run from Newport Central Catholic High School to the event site from noon to 2:30 a.m.

For more information, call 606-655-9500.

Publication date: 12-30-99

©Copyright 1999, The Cincinnati Post

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