The holiday season is a busy time – the hustle and bustle of shopping for that perfect gift, family parties, school concerts, prepping your house for out-of-town guests, and the list goes on. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the stress of it all, but one local business owner wants Batavians to slow down and take a moment to think peaceful thoughts.
Craig Foltos, owner of Foltos Tonsorial Parlor, wanted to bring a little peace to downtown Batavia. He came up with an idea to add a piece of art to the pedestrian bridge that would also have a positive message.
“I see the bridge every day, and it needed some artwork,” Foltos said. “I wanted it to be something that would help put good thoughts in people’s heads. What better message than peace?”
Years ago, Foltos approached Chris Behmer, former Batavia Park District commissioner, about the project. After several years of conceptualizing, the park board gave the project a green light.
Foltos stepped up to bring the project to life, but he couldn’t do it alone. He reached out to Terry McCarter and Jim Hagemann who helped cut and paint the letters, which took approximately 40 hours. Foltos then enlisted the help of Jeff Matter to transport the letters.
In 2008, the “Peace on Earth” sign made its inaugural appearance on the pedestrian bridge in downtown Batavia. The Batavia Park District Board of Commissioners in April 2011 officially named the bridge Peace Bridge.
Every year since, the park district’s parks department has undertaken the great effort of installing the letters. It takes three staff members a total of eight hours to install the 12-foot-tall letters in “Peace” and “Earth” and the 8-foot-tall letters in “On.” But the effect the sign has had on the community has been well worth the effort.
“I can’t tell you the number of people who tell me they love the sign,” Foltos said. “People use it on their Christmas cards, and you can regularly see people taking pictures of it.”
Earlier this year, Foltos spearheaded efforts in cooperation with the park district and city of Batavia to light the sign. Key players began brainstorming fundraising opportunities when an anonymous donor came forward to provide the lighting. The “Peace on Earth” sign was officially dedicated during the Celebration of Lights Festival on Dec. 1.
“I’ve wanted to put lights on it from day one, but this year we made it happen,” Foltos said. “The park district’s Executive Director Allison Niemela was instrumental in helping to light the sign. We couldn’t have done it without the help of the park district.”
This holiday season, take a moment to drive through downtown Batavia to appreciate the beauty of the Peace Bridge and what it represents.
“If the sign can make people think about peace for a little bit, that’s a good thing,” Foltos said. “It helps bring civility to the community, and it makes you feel better to think peaceful things.”
For information, visit www.bataviaparks.org or call 630-879-5235.
• Kari Miller is director of marketing and public relations for the Batavia Park District. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.