BATAVIA – The Peace Bridge spans the waters of the Fox River in downtown Batavia, providing pedestrians and bicyclists with an idyllic crossing for more than 20 years now.
Every holiday season, 12-foot-tall letters spelling “Peace on Earth” are installed by Batavia Park District workers on the south side of the bridge’s metal superstructure, creating an inspiring view from the Wilson Street span just a block away.
The annual tradition has taken place for a decade, and Batavia barber Craig Foltos thinks that’s a good reason to celebrate.
Foltos is organizing a Peace on Earth birthday party with the goal of creating a human hand-holding chain extending across the pedestrian bridge from one side of the river to the other.
“We want people to feel a connection to each other,” Foltos said.
The celebration will get started with cake and ice cream at 4 p.m. on Jan. 26 at Foltos Tonsorial Parlor, 7 E. Wilson St.
Then, between 4:30 and 5 p.m., the party will move to the bridge for the creation of the human chain.
It was Foltos who originally donated to the park district the letters as well as the lighting designed to illuminate the Peace on Earth message.
In 2011, the Batavia Park Board officially designated the span as the Peace Bridge after a petition campaign by Foltos. A plaque located at the west end of the bridge tells the story of the crossing and the Peace on Earth sign.
“I think the sign tells people that they live in a good community,” Foltos said.
The bridge extends from a location in front of Batavia City Hall on the west bank of the river, to a walkway on the east bank connecting with North River Street.
Wood planks form the bridge deck between the metal girders. The bridge was installed in 1998. A crane hoisted the bridge into place in sections, placed atop a single concrete pier in the middle of the river.
The Peace on Earth lettering is displayed on the bridge every year from Thanksgiving until the end of January.
For the past three years, Foltos has organized a “Peace Sing-along” in the middle of the bridge on a Sunday evening late in January. The event has taken place in cold temperatures and with snow falling.
“This year we’re going to be singing in the spring,” Foltos said, on a date to be determined.