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Long before the Internet or cell phones, mission bells served as major means of communications. Tone sequences announced times for work, meals, mass and siestas. Bells guided travelers along El Camino Real (the King’s Highway), signaled danger, honored the dead, and pealed to celebrate joyous feast days, weddings and fiestas.

July 6, 2010 (San Diego) – Tucked away just east of I-15,  Mission San Diego de Alcala marks the birthplace of California. Founded on July 16, 1769 by Spanish padre Junipero Serra, the mission will celebrate its 241st anniversary on July 16-18 with one of California's most unique celebrations, Festival of the Bells.


All five bells in the campanario (bell tower) will ring out during Festival of the Bells. The event also includes a traditional blessing of the animals, talent show, fun zone, live music from local bands, dancing, basketball, foods,  and more.

The weekend’s events open on Friday evening, July 16 with a talent show put on by parishioners and their friends. On Saturday, the Blessing of the Bells ceremony will include the annual ringing of all the bells in the campanario, following by an anniversary mass.

A full day of entertainment on Saturday includes the San Diego Banjo Band, Mariachi Fiesta Mexicana, Novamenco, Just Friends, Academy of Dance Arts, and the Legends. In addition, McGregor’s Grill & Ale House is sponsoring a three-on-one basketball match open to kids eleven and up and adults.

Food vendors will offer tasty treats including Filipino and Italian foods, fruits and sweets, snow cones, popcorn, tacos, smoothies, hamburgers and hotdogs, pizza, root beer floats, and a cantina. On Sunday, a pancake breakfast will also be offered.

Activities include a fun zone, Irish bingo, jailhouse, dunk tank, crafts, plantique, Poker Knights, and a white elephant booth.

Sunday opens with a pancake breakfast, followed by the Blessing of the Animals. The public is invited to bring their pets for this tradition established by St. Francis back in 1200 A.D. and continued by Father Junipero Serra. According to Janet Bartel, historian for the mission, people have brought cats, dogs, birds, snakes, fish and gerbils to be sprinkled with holy water during the blessings in the past, “but always it is with the pets appearing to behave perfectly almost as if knowing that this is a special day for them.”

The mission is located at 10818 San Diego Mission Road in San Diego.


For more information on the Festival of the Bells, visit www.FestivalofBells.com.

For more information on Mission San Diego de Alcala, visit www.missionsandiego.com.