No place like home at festival time

Bell Tower Festival to have “Oz” theme for emerald anniversary


With the Bell Tower Festival turning 35 — the emerald anniversary — organizers are looking to the merry old land of Oz for inspiration.

The annual festival is set for June 13-14, but it’s what happens on June 12 that could determine the mood of this year’s celebration.

That’s the day the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission in Burlington either approves or nixes a planned casino in Jefferson at the intersection of highways 30 and 4.

Advocates believe the difference a casino would make in Greene County is, well, a lot like “The Wizard of Oz” itself — where there once was a sepia dust bowl, a Technicolor wonderland would take its place.

Whether flying monkeys actually descend on Jefferson in the event a casino comes, as gambling opponents have feared, will remain to be seen.

But one way or another, the emerald-anniversary edition of the Bell Tower Festival will go on, and with an “Oz” theme.

Greene County Chamber and Development unveiled initial plans, and the 2014 festival logo, Monday during a press conference.

“You haven’t heard much about this because we didn’t know quite how to deal with something else that is happening around the same time,” Chamber Director Chris Henning said, referring to the June 12 casino decision by the state.

Arguably, the highlight of the festival will be a chance to see “Oz” the way it was intended — on the big screen.

The Sierra Community Theatre has managed to book the 1939 movie classic for the entirety of the festival, with screenings June 13, 14 and 15.

Whether admission will be charged, and whether the movie will be the 3-D version that premiered nationally last September, remains to be seen, Henning said.

The movie celebrates a milestone of its own — its 75th anniversary — this summer.

High school classes holding reunions during the fest will be the classes of ’64, ’74, ’79, ’84, ’94 and 2004. In addition, Paton will be hosting an all-school reunion.

Also, given the county’s proximity to Iowa State, the Greene County office of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach wants to start playing a bigger role in the Bell Tower Festival, according to Extension Coordinator Michael Cooley.

A possible “Iowa State Avenue” at the festival would highlight the university’s offerings, Cooley said, complete with a likely visit from Cy.

Other confirmed activities include:

June 13

5 to 7 p.m. — pork barbecue

7 to 8 p.m. — opening ceremonies and introduction of the Tower of Fame Award winner

8 p.m. to 1 a.m. — Beer Gardens open, with music by Burnin’ Sensations, an ’80s/’90s cover band from Ames

June 14

9 a.m. — parade

Noon to 2 p.m. — Various events, including performances by the Isiserettes drill and drum corps from Des Moines and Elite Tumbling, an appearance by Thomas Jefferson in the Thomas Jefferson Gardens and a demonstration of Scranton Manufacturing’s Cobra garbage truck

1 to 5 p.m. — “Munchkin Land” inflatables and games; farmers market showcase; community sing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in honor of the national anthem’s 200th anniversary

5 p.m. — Farm Bureau talent show

8 p.m. to 1 a.m. — Beer Gardens open, with music by Big Time Grain Co., a Kansas City band specializing in contemporary country covers

Additional festival information will be posted at

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