Oak Ridge Wins Sister Cities International Innovation Award for Friendship Bell Peace Pavilion Project


The City of Oak Ridge has won the Sister Cities International 2019 Innovation Award for Arts and Culture for a community with a population of 25,001-100,000. The competition, which is open to over 500 sister city programs nationwide, recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding individuals and community sister city programs that are promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation.

Thanks to energetic fundraising, brainstorming, engineering, and community outreach, the City of Oak Ridge and its partners successfully dedicated the International Friendship Bell Peace Pavilion in 2018. The bell is a symbol of peace between the U.S. and Japan, created as part of the City’s 50th anniversary, and serves as a memorial to the events of World War II.

After discovering the original home of the bell had deteriorated in 2014, City staff developed a plan for a new structure. Today, the iconic bell is displayed beneath a modern concrete cantilever with sprawling carbon fiber beams, the longest of their kind in the world, and other state-of-the-art features. Curving paths, wide-open park views and a Japanese-inspired raked garden round out the design. Planted gardens, irrigation improvements by Rotary International District 6780, and lighting upgrades are still underway.

“This monumental project would not have been possible without donations and participation throughout the community, the phenomenal work of our volunteers, and the dedication of our Recreation and Parks Department,” remarked City Manager Mark Watson. “We are seeing the next generation come along, students who have gone to Japan through our Sister Cities program and recognize the worldwide significance of the Friendship Bell. This award is one we all share.”

As part of Oak Ridge’s 30-year student exchange with its sister city in Japan, middle school children from Naka-shi visited the site in 2018 while it was still under construction. The students, along with their local hosts, were able see the beginnings of the new home for the bell, which will be ringing in Oak Ridge for 1,000 years to come.

Sister Cities International’s Annual Awards recognize excellence in overall programming and highlight key innovations in arts and culture; business and trade; humanitarian assistance; youth and education; and professional and technical exchange categories. All award winners were honored during SCI’s 2019 Annual Conference from July 17-19 in Houston, Texas.