“It was kind of seedy, actually,” said the 54-year-old former Grand Haven resident, who now lives in Midland. “There was a building down there called the Sugar Shack. There was a big giant slide. You'd pay a quarter and walk to the top of the stairs and sit on a carpet square and slide down.”
As a youngster, Neubauer said she would play on the slide until the fountain spoke.
“You'd hear the boom, boom, boom, boom, then that distinctive voice — ‘good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Grand Haven musical fountain,’” Neubauer recalled. “We sat with our feet hanging over the seawall, watching the musical fountain. I remember thinking that was the greatest thing in the world.”
The fountain was Neubauer's first introduction to Grand Haven when she moved here from Harbor Springs as a first grader in the 1960s. Her family told her they were going to a place with dancing waters.
Her father, Paul Verseput, moved here for a job and became a city councilman in the 1970s.
“He was very proud of the city and active in bringing different things to town,” Neubauer said. “We used to have a lot of house guests, and it was such a big deal to bring people down to see the musical fountain.”
She said she remembers another exciting waterfront show — the “Whitey” White Water Thrill Show with water skiers, jumping power boats and a kite skier that would soar over the crowd.
According to local historian Dave Seibold, the show was founded by Lyle White in 1957 and thrilled crowds on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
Neubauer said one Coast Guard Festival week performance stands out in particular.
“I remember feeling really special because we had special seating,” she said. “One year during Coast Guard Festival, the guy that was on the kite crashed into the grandstands and took out an old lady. He didn't kill her, but she was injured. He was injured, too.”
Neubauer's fountain fascination continued into high school. The marching band played the theme song from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which was the fountain's opening track several years before the movie came out. Neubauer played clarinet.
“Jim Query was the announcer and he would announce the marching band at football games,” Neubauer said. “We'd march down the field playing that song. I know this sounds really corny, but I remember getting goose bumps. It was kind of like Grand Haven's theme song.”
The 1977 Grand Haven High School graduate continues to carry on the theme. She returns every year to attend the Coast Guard Festival fountain and fireworks show.
“Every year we wonder if this is going to be the year they set the hill on fire,” Neubauer said. “We laugh about that every year.”