Bath City Manager’s executive assistant and human resources manager Erika Helgerson (left-right), Antonio Garreton, Bath City Council Chairman Aaron Park. Garreton was awarded Bath’s 2021 Citizen of the Year in October for his volunteer work in the community. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Bath will continue its tradition of ringing the Paul Revere Bell that sits in the belfry of City Hall at noon on New Year’s Eve, but the city is once again asking people not to gather outside or sing to celebrate due to the ongoing pandemic.

Traditionally, Bath residents gather outside city hall to sing “Auld Lang Syne” when the bell tolls at noon, but the city put the kibosh on that part of the tradition last year to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Bath Marketing Communications Specialist Lindsey Goudreau said while that portion of the celebration won’t take place this year, it’s still important to ring the bell.

“Anything we can do to add a sense of normalcy in the community is important,” said Goudreau. “This is an event that not only celebrates this historical piece of Bath, but it also celebrates this tradition of selecting a citizen of the year and the good they do for the community and giving them an opportunity to do something special. Not everybody gets to go up on the roof of city hall and ring the bell.”

Bath’s bell was cast in 1802 by the Boston-based foundry Paul Revere and Son, 27 years after Revere took the midnight ride for which he is known. The old North Meetinghouse congregation ordered the bell, according to Jack Martin, a reference librarian in the Patten Free Library’s Sagadahoc History and Genealogy Room.

Revere’s metalworking company cast more than 100 bells between 1792 and Revere’s death in 1818. The family-run business ultimately cast 398 bells, the last of which sold in 1828, according to the National Museum of American History.

In 1803, Bath’s bell was hung in the spire of North Church, the city’s meeting house on the corner of High and Centre streets. After bouncing around various Bath churches, the city purchased the bell in 1928 and it was moved to the belfry of city hall, according to Martin.

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Stephen August, Bath’s 2020 Citizen of the Year, stands with Bath’s Paul Revere bell in the belfry of city hall. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Years ago, the bell was used to announce the time, deaths, religious services and emergencies. Today, the bell – one of four Paul Revere bells in the state – is rung only on New Year’s Eve by Bath’s Citizen of the Year, according to Goudreau.

This year, Antonio Garreton, known locally as “Tony Dancer,” will do the honors. He was crowned Bath’s 2021 Citizen of the Year during the city’s annual Citizen Involvement Day in October.

During the award presentation, Erika Helgerson, Bath City Manager’s executive assistant and human resources manager, said Garreton was chosen for “fostering joy and kindness in Bath.”

“Tony Garreton is a well-known face who brings heart and soul into all he does, whether it’s empowering residents through exercise and dance or volunteering at community events,” Helgerson said in October.

Garreton said he’s proud and honored to be the first Latin and gay man to receive the award, as it marks increasing “diversity, love and union” in Bath.

Garreton was born and raised in Peru and moved to the United States when he was 17 years old. He lived in New York briefly, then attended college in Virginia. He later worked as an interior designer in the Washington D.C. area. He said he settled in Bath 18 years ago.

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Garreton first made his mark on Bath when he started Tony Dance Fiesta, a dance studio on Centre Street in Bath, where he offers dance and Zumba exercise classes. In his classes, he aims to empower women to “love and accept themselves as they are,” especially those who have experienced domestic abuse, he told The Times Record.

Garreton said teaching dance classes began as a way to share Latin music and culture with his new community. After making connections with students and realizing some in the community were struggling, Garreton started volunteering.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Garreton organized a grocery drive and cooked meals to bring to elderly Bath resident, said Helgerson.

Garreton was also instrumental in gathering school supplies for the Midcoast Youth Center’s Set for Success event, Midcoast Youth Center Founder and Executive Director Jamie Dorr told The Times Record. Garreton held dance classes and asked participants to bring school supplies to donate to the event in lieu of payment.

Garreton said when he rings the Paul Revere Bell, he will wish the best for his community in the new year. He hopes those in his community will “continue getting along and building our community stronger, not to regret 2021, and instead to be grateful for surviving it, and learn if we had any bad experience, to make 2022 better.”

Though residents are discouraged to gather to watch the bell ringing, the city will livestream the event from the roof on the city’s Facebook page for those interested in watching live, according to Goudreau.

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