Batavia group has grand plan to honor U.S. flag
Group wants to build moment to honor everything flag represents
A group of Batavians agree with the famous patriotic song: The U.S. flag is a grand old flag.
And the city that the founder of Flag Day long called home is the right place for a grand monument to the Stars and Stripes, they believe.
So Tuesday night, the Flag Day monument committee revealed its design for a monument that will tell the flag's history, highlight its role in major events, and honor the sacrifices of people who died protecting the freedoms for which the flag stands.
It was revealed at a ceremony on the Riverwalk, featuring patriotic music and essays.
Architect Steve Vasilion of Batavia has designed a helix with a 40-foot diameter.
"It's something beautiful that educates and honors Flag Day founder Dr. Cigrand and our nation," Vasilion said.
The interior side would detail the nation's history, beginning in 1776.
A band of red tiles would represent each time a star was added to the flag, as the nation grew. A blue band would reflect the times the nation has been at war.
There also would be obelisks commemorating iconic flag-related moments: The adoption of the official flag by the Continental Congress, the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" after the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, the establishment of Flag Day, the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima in World War II and the placing of the flag on the Moon.
Vasilion also wants to put a prism on top of the monument's flagpole. It would focus light on prisms at memorial markers placed on the grounds paying tribute to fallen heroes, such as assassinated presidents, local service members and firefighters and police officers who died while on duty.
The committee wants to put the memorial on the grounds of the Riverwalk, which is owned by the Batavia Park District.
There is also the matter of paying for it. A cost has not been determined. The Flag Day monument committee is applying to the IRS for charity status so it can collect tax-deductible donations. It does not intend to seek government money for the memorial, committee member Austin Dempsey said.
Batavia is so attuned to Flag Day because the man who lobbied for it, Dr. Bernard Cigrand, lived in Batavia from 1912 to 1932, when he moved briefly to Aurora, then died.
Cigrand's interest in the flag started when he was a schoolteacher in 1885 in Wisconsin. Like some of his students, he was the child of immigrants (from Luxembourg). Finding the children knew little about American culture, he drew their attention to a small flag he kept on his desk and asked them to write about what it meant to them. He marked the flag's birthday on June 14, the date the Continental Congress adopted the flag in 1777.
He promoted Flag Day with letters, newspaper and magazine articles, and thousands of lectures -- even as he moved to Illinois and became a dentist.
President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1916 setting June 14 as Flag Day. President Harry Truman signed a law in 1949.
Tuesday was the second day of activities. On Sunday, residents gathered to be photographed as a human version of the flag.
FlagSource, which makes U.S. flags, gave tours of its Batavia factory on Tuesday. It also sold flags, complete with certification that they had been made on Tuesday. Boy Scouts also placed flags on the lawns of people who ordered special displays. At the ceremony, the Illinois Air National Guard Band performed, with a pop-up chorus of Batavians singing patriotic music. The Riverwalk was lined with 1,777 luminarias, decorated by Batavia schoolchildren.
"We are very proud to be in the place where this (Flag Day) was originally centered, and happened," Mayor Jeff Schielke said,