Peace Plaza dedication & heritage celebration

Peace Plaza dedication & heritage celebration


The community is invited to the formal dedication of the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza, to be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 23. The Peace Plaza is located on Perryville Road along the Perryville Path between Spring Brook and Riverside on County Highway right-of-way. The project initially was conceived by County Board Chairman Kristine Cohn more than two years ago to enhance the path and make it more user-friendly. It received impetus when two Rockford families—the Puri and Keeling families—offered to underwrite a significant portion of the project.

Peace Poles with inscriptions in 30 different world languages, and flags representing 20 ethnicities that have contributed to this area’s history surround the plaza. A procession, flag raising and musical entertainment celebrating the diverse ethnic heritage of Winnebago County will be featured. The stated mission of the peace park is “to celebrate both the rich ethnic heritage of the Rock River region and the universal inspiration for true world understanding and tranquility.”

Parking for the dedication will be available at Rockford Health Systems, 3401 N. Perryville Rd. (north of Spring Brook on McFarland Road). A shuttle will be provided from Rockford Health Systems to the Plaza. Entertainment will be provided.

Phase I of the project included the construction and landscaping of the site, construction and placement of a 25 ft. high by 40 ft. wide sculpture, entitled “Harmony Atlas.” The sculpture is mounted on a large base with a granite facade, which includes peace quotes and a historic timeline of the settlement of different nationalities in Winnebago County. This will allow visitors to the community to track the various heritages of the county, along with the date when various nationalities arrived and settled. The sculpture will be surrounded by flags of founding nations and Peace Poles.

The Blaeu Wall Map of 1605 inspired the image for the sculpture, “Harmony Atlas.” The Blaeu Map divides the world into two flat planar circles. This image presents a full, single point of view of the world’s defined geographic areas. The artist for the sculpture is Professor Lee Sido, a Rockford native and head of the Sculpture Program for the Art Department at NIU (DeKalb). The artist’s objective in designing this sculpture is “to create an image that presents a community’s geographic (global) locations while allowing the viewer to understand their positions and relationship to the greater whole.”

The sculpture is constructed of stainless steel and aluminum plate forms with a bronze powder-coated finish. These materials interpret the longitude and latitude lines and the landmasses of a globe. The sculpture will sit on a granite base, which will be inscribed with various peace quotes. The artist was commissioned by the Puri and Keeling families, and the sculpture celebrates the unification of Eastern and Western civilizations through the families friendship and will also serve as a memorial to their families. Professor Sido will be present at the dedication.

Behind the sculpture in a semi-circle will be a Court of Flags, featuring the flags of many founding nations to Winnebago County. Each grouping of six flags will surround a Peace Pole. This project will bring the first Peace Pole to this area. Peace Poles have become an international movement of great import. More than 100,000 Peace Poles are located throughout the world. A Peace Pole is approximately 8 ft. in height and is six-sided. Each will have six brass plaques affixed to it, which will be inscribed with the language of one of the six flags surrounding the pole. The message will be a simple one, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”

Landscaping will be an important feature of the site development. A large berm has been constructed behind the sculpture area, which will define the area and set off the plaza. The berm will be planted with evergreens and will include large outcrops of indigenous rock to create a natural setting. A storm water retention area south of the plaza will be restored and will include short grass prairie with walking trails around the area. A short grass prairie area will also be created to the west of the plaza along the trail. The rest of the area will be more formally landscaped to create a peaceful, garden-like setting in keeping with the theme of the plaza. This will also allow the site to be an addition to the City of Gardens project. “Immigrants and Ingenuity” signs will also be located along the path.

According to Winnebago County Board Chairman Kristine Cohn, “This project has been in the works in one form or another for the past three years. It would not have been possible without the generous support of the Keeling and Puri families. It is our hope that the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza will become an international destination, while at the same time providing additional amenities to the Perryville Path.”

Initial grading of the site began in late May, and the sculpture was placed in late May. The county has applied for a Tourism Attraction Grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs for additional funding for the project. An endowment will be established to maintain the Peace Plaza. The project was coordinated by the Winnebago County Board Chairman’s office, assisted by the Winnebago County Highway Department, Winnebago County Forest Preserve District and the Rockford Park District.

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