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The bells of St. Josaphat are just a few of the bells of Milwaukee ringing in the new year. (PHOTO: Molly Snyder )

Several bells of Milwaukee set to ring in the new year together at midnight

Tis the season for Milwaukee merriment and BMO Harris Bank is bringing you happy holiday stories all season long.

In a revival of an old custom, bells of Milwaukee will ring in unison at midnight on New Year's Eve as a message of peace.

This is in part due to the efforts of The Bells of Milwaukee, Inc., an IRS tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation founded by Russell Klisch, the president, founder and owner of Lakefront Brewery.

Klisch founded the organization to combat a recent New Year's practice of celebrating the turn of the year by the firing of guns.

"Once people start hearing bells, they will want to hear bells instead of gunshots. That's our hope," Klisch says.

Crucial support has come from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Its 196 member parishes include a majority of the bells in the community.

The response has been encouraging, Klisch said, with churches as far away as Kenosha ready to participate.

Two of Milwaukee's most prominent churches – the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and the Basilica of St. Josaphat – will also ring their bells at midnight.

"In fact," Klisch says, "the Basilica has never abandoned that venerable tradition."

Participating secular bells include City Hall's Solomon Juneau, a massive 20,000 pound bell that first rang at midnight on New Year's Eve, 1895-96.

Also to be heard is the Chamber of Commerce bell in the Mackie Flats, 225 E. Michigan St. The 1880 bell has been silent since at least 1962 and has recently been rehabilitated with the building best known for housing the Grain Exchange Room.

Videos of bells are regularly posted on the group's Facebook page.

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