Leonard Oats wowed the crowd with a bell-ringing rendition of Michael Jackson’s song “Bad” and took home a giant trophy, a stack of cash, lots of Ghirardelli chocolate and a fair amount of bragging rights for his effort.
The 53-year-old San Franciscan was crowned World Champion Bell Ringer at the 53rd annual event Thursday afternoon in Union Square. Reigning champion Byron Cobb took second, while Trini Whittaker won the third-place trophy.
For a first time in more than 50 years, a woman competed in the contest.
Cassandra Griffin was up against six men, and she says she felt she made history as the first woman to compete in the annual challenge. She says she’ll be back again next year.
The event also featured bands, celebrity bell-ringers vying for charity money, local dignitaries and a show bell outside the cable car that everyone was given a chance to ring.