Richard K. Stephenson leads the Star Spangled Banner at last summer’s July 4 program in Diamond Park.

At promptly 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, pause for a moment and listen. You just may be able to hear freedom ring.

Area bells will toll 13 times — one ring for each of the original 13 states — as they join bells throughout the land in “Let Freedom Ring,” a nationwide celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence sponsored by Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution. A congressional resolution specifies 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time as the time for honoring the states represented by the declaration’s signers by ringing bells across the country.

“Picnics and reunions are fine, but you still have to remember how everything started,” said retired U.S. Air Force Col. Richard K. Stephenson, who organized both the local ringing of the bells and a brief Wednesday-morning program in Diamond Park.

At 10 a.m., a 13-gun salute by the color guard of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2006 will lead off the day’s festivities, signaling the beginning of a program that is expected to last approximately 45 minutes.

The formal Fourth of July program made its debut Diamond Park in 2006, following the 2 p.m. ringing of the bells. This year, Stephenson bumped the starting time ahead in an effort to make it more convenient for area residents to attend.

In addition to officers and members of Post 2006, participants in the 10 a.m. communitywide celebration will include Crawford County Commissioner Morris Waid as featured speaker; Jerry Walton, pastor of First Baptist Church, presenting the invocation and a prayer of remembrance; and Yesterday’s Sound,

singing both “God Bless America” and the national anthem.

Local churches and institutions who have formally agreed to participate in the 2 p.m. bell ringing include Allegheny College, Christ Episcopal Church, Emman-uel United Church of Christ, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, St. Agatha Roman Catholic Church, St. Brigid Roman Catholic Church and Wes-bury United Methodist Re-tirement Community. All other churches and institutions are also encouraged to ring their bells 13 times at 2.

Stephenson asked area churches and institutions to ring their bells for the first time several years ago; last year, the celebration expanded to include a formal program.

“We have to remember all the people who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep this freedom alive,” he explained, recalling that the idea came to him after some personal genealogical research revealed that an ancestor came over from northern Ireland sometime around 1760. “He wasn’t even a citizen — but he volunteered to serve in the Revolutionary War,” Stephenson said. “That’s what spawned the whole thing.”

Check out the area’s fireworks displays: Edinboro, Wednesday at dusk; The Movies at Meadville, Sunday at dusk.

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