Grace United Methodist Church Holds 31st Annual Handbell Festival

Local News Stories

ZANESVILLE, Oh – A Zanesville holiday tradition was back this year.

After a two year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Handbell Festival returned for its 31st year Sunday.

With a variety of holiday songs, hymns, and even a rendition of Singin’ In the Rain, the Thursday Music Club sponsored the concert at Grace United Methodist Church which was open to all.

Members of all ages performed, including longtime bell ringer, Bob Frael, who says he’s been with the group since he was a child.

“It’s probably something I’ve done longer than I can remember doing anything else. They started in 1965. I was a 7th grader at Roosevelt and another fellow and I used to run down after school and run across the bridge and come over here and practice. I’ve enjoyed playing bells. I’ve done it so long and, like I said, I don’t have anything special about it, and I’m not that gifted, it’s just that I’ve done it so long that it’s just natural to me,” Handbell Festival Performer Bob Frael told us.

The show began at 7 PM and featured a welcome, prayer, and of course, plenty of music, including holiday classics like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” with several vocalists and even a flute soloist.

And after two long years without this beloved tradition, it was a welcome return for both the performers and the community.

“For some people this is the kick-off to the holiday season. And it really does mean a lot and a lot of people have missed getting together and doing this and you’re going to see a lot of smiles on peoples’ faces just because we’re back doing this. It’s a fun event. That’s all there is to it,” Grace UMC Director of Handbells, Ann Lillie Briggs said.

If you missed this year’s festival, don’t worry, it will return next year, for a 32nd rendition of the highly-anticipated night of music.

For more information on Grace United Methodist Church visit:

Maggie Warren
Maggie was born and raised in Speedway, Indiana where she developed her love and passion for weather, IndyCar and F1, hockey, and baseball, especially the Detroit Red Wings and the Cincinnati Reds. When she's not at work, she enjoys binge-watching her favorite tv shows, writing, hiking, and doing pretty much any outdoor activity! Maggie graduated from Ball State University, where she majored in meteorology/climatology, in Fall 2020. While at Ball State, she was a member of the Storm Chase Team and Cardinal Weather Service. She is also a member of the American Meteorological Society. She loves exploring new places, so if you have any recommendations of places she should visit, let her know! And if you see her around town, don't be shy, say hi!