Antonio Garreton, known locally as “Tony Dancer,” rang in the new year in Bath by ringing the city’s centuries-old Paul Revere bell at noon on New Year’s Eve.

Standing atop city hall looking down on downtown Bath, Garreton said he never thought he’d be recognized as Bath’s 2021 Citizen of the Year when he moved to Maine, but Bath has proved to be one of the most welcoming places he has ever lived.

Antonio “Tony Dancer” Garreton stands with the centuries-old Paul Revere bell in the belfry of Bath City Hall. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record.

“After living in New York and Washington DC, moving to Bath was a very radical and strong change,” said Garreton. “Looking around and not seeing another person of my race or culture was shocking in my mind. Eighteen years ago, I thought I would be unable to live here being Afro-Latino and gay, but it was not like that.”

Garreton spoke to his family in Peru over the city’s livestream on Facebook Live before pulling the rope that made the centuries-old bell toll. Garreton said he counted in Spanish as he made the bell chime 12 times to mark the hour, because it’s “the language of my heart.”

With every toll of the bell, Garreton said he made a wish that 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.”

Garreton was born and raised in Peru and moved to the United States when he was 17 years old. Garreton made a name for himself in Bath when he opened Tony Dance Fiesta, a dance studio on Centre Street in Bath, where he offers dance and Zumba exercise classes. He used his classes as a way to share his culture and inspire his students to love themselves as they are, but Garreton began volunteering and organizing fundraisers after a student took their own life in 2015.

Antonio “Tony Dancer” Garreton yanks on the rope on the roof of Bath City Hall to make the city’s Paul Revere bell sound. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record.

In the new year, Garreton said he wants to continue working with the Midcoast Youth Center in Bath, which provides a host of resources, free of charge, such as after-school programs, adult mentors, homework clubs, snacks and hot meals, and clothing and school supplies if needed. The nonprofit also connects students in need with any resources outside the center, such as healthcare, mental health support or substance use treatment.

Previously, Garreton gathering school supplies for the Midcoast Youth Center’s Set for Success event by holding dance classes and asking participants to bring school supplies to donate to the event in lieu of payment.

Garreton also organized a grocery drive and cooked meals to bring to older Bath residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though residents were discouraged from gathering below city hall or carol when the bell tolled to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19, Bath Marketing Communications Specialist Lindsey Goudreau said the city was still determined to continue the tradition of ringing the city’s Paul Revere bell at noon on New Year’s Eve “to add a sense of normalcy in the community.”

“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,” said Goudreau.

Bath’s Paul Revere bell was cast over 200 years ago and is one of four Paul Revere bells in the state. Though Revere’s family-run metalworking business cast nearly 400 bells, Bath’s was created during Revere’s lifetime.

Bath’s bell was ordered by the old North Meetinghouse congregation, according to Jack Martin, a reference librarian in the Patten Free Library’s Sagadahoc History and Genealogy Room. The bell was hung in the spire of North Church, the city’s meeting house on the corner of High and Centre streets in 1803.

Over time, the bell bounced around various churches in Bath, but the city finally bought it in 1928 and it was moved to the belfry of city hall where it sits today, according to Martin. Now, the bell is only rung on New Year’s Eve by the Bath Citizen of the Year.


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