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Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial to celebrate Independence Day and the 300th anniversary of the Illinois National Guard

KASKASKIA - The Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial on Kaskaskia Island in southwest Illinois will host its 53rd annual patriotic ceremony celebrating our nation's independence at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 4.

The 320-year-old village of Kaskaskia is home to the Liberty Bell of the West and is the site where the Illinois National Guard established its first militia on May 9, 1723, 300 years ago.

The Liberty Bell of the West was cast in 1741 and was presented by France as a gift to the Catholic Church of the Illinois Country. Originally located at the Immaculate Conception Parish at Kaskaskia, the bell was rung by villagers to celebrate their July 4, 1778, liberation from the British by American Colonel George Rogers Clark. In later years, it became known as the Liberty Bell of the West.

This year's July Fourth program will feature remarks by Deborah Barnett, who proudly serves as the first executive director for SI Now, a 17-county southern Illinois regional economic development initiative. Prior to joining SI Now, Barnett served as the director of Business Incubator Programs at Southern Illinois University's Office of Innovation and Economic Development, where she grew the incubator to capacity with a wait list for the first time in its 30-year history. As a lifelong resident of southern Illinois, she is passionate about contributing to collaborative efforts to advance the region she serves.

Music will be performed by the Chester Municipal Band with vocalist Melody Colonel. A rifle volley from historic interpreters Les Compagnie Franche de La Marine at de Fort de Chartres will accompany the patriotic celebration. A plate lunch, sandwiches and other refreshments will be available. Visitors are asked to bring lawn chairs for the program.

The Chester Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, the City of Chester, area scout troops, the Kaskaskia Church Foundation, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) are hosts of the Independence Day celebration.

The Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial, administered by the IDNR, is located on an island in the Mississippi River about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis. The town was once physically connected to the rest of Illinois by a peninsula until the Mississippi River changed course in 1881. The site is accessible by land only from Missouri. Visitors can reach the site through St. Mary, Missouri; take Missouri Highway 61 to the Old Channel Bridge, turn east, then follow Kaskaskia Bell markers for approximately 5 miles to the state memorial site.