Thursday, April 22, 2004

Bell-making in Newport makes for riveting TV

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

Tim Verdin pours molten bronze into a bell mold Wednesday. In the fall, viewers of Discovery Channel can watch the bell-making process, too.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/MEGGAN BOOKER
NEWPORT - The city is getting a national boost from Original Productions, a Hollywood crew in town to tape Monster Nation, a new Discovery Channel show that will air weeknights from 7-8 p.m. beginning in the fall.

The crew is here to tape what is thought to be the first bell ever cast in Newport. Made by the Verdin Co.'s unique "Bell Foundry on Wheels" - a portable furnace, crane and sand-mixing machine hauled by a truck to make bells on the road - the 250-pound bell was poured Wednesday and will be finished today at York and Fourth streets.

"You talk to people from around the state and there is no question (tourists) are coming here," said City Manager Phil Ciafardini. "I think for a show like this to give us national exposure is real important and exciting for our community."

The program is a spinoff of the Discovery Channel's Monster Garage and Monster House shows. "We call it a celebration of transformation and invention," said Nick Stein, the show's supervising producer.

Before coming to Newport, the crew taped shows at the Corvette factory in Bowling Green, Ky., and the Louisville Slugger Museum.

Stein said that when his company read about Verdin's traveling foundry, they thought it was a "nice, small story." But then they found out that Verdin made the World Peace Bell here, the world's largest hanging bell at 66,000 pounds.

"So not only have they made this bell, but they have converted this semi into a foundry," said Stein. "If that's not monster, I don't know what is."

Verdin, based in Cincinnati, was founded in 1842 and is Ohio's oldest family-owned business. The traveling foundry was built three years ago when the Verdin Co. was asked by Ohio state officials to cast a bell in each of the 88 counties for the state's bicentennial celebration.

"We're the first and only traveling bell foundry in the world, and we're thrilled to be able to do it," said vice president David Verdin. "It's a fun thing and it beats the heck out of doing office work."

Adding to the show Wednesday were 60 fourth-graders from Fourth Street Elementary School. They formed a line and passed 1-pound ingots to the bell-making crew.

"What we've taught them is that it takes raw material to make a finished product," said teacher Martha Henke. "They are getting to see that and see something changing form."

Some of the kids said it was a chance to do something other than school work. Marc Marshall, 10, said it was more than that.

"Holding and passing the little ingots was fun," said Marc. "And we made history for being a part of the first bell made in Newport."

The mold for the bell will be broken at 10 a.m. today at York and Fourth streets. After the bell is sandblasted and polished, there will be a dedication ceremony at 4 p.m. The bell will be given to Original Productions to take home.


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