OUR VIEWS: Remix the Musical Fountain

Jul 2, 2012


That’s right, Grand Haven’s beloved Technicolor spout of many colors just so happens to be celebrating its 50th birthday this year.

There’s little argument that our local fountain designed by Bill Booth II in 1962 can no longer cling to the moniker of “World’s Largest Musical Fountain,” as an ambitious entry in Dubai has laid claim to most of the records surrounding the synchronizing of water and music.

Loss of record-setting claims aside, there’s no denying that the Musical Fountain has entertained tourists and locals alike, but it’s equally difficult to argue that it continues to have its ever-hydrated fingers on the pulse of American popular music. After all, a casual perusing of the fountain’s monthly “setlist” belies little to which anyone born after the fall of the Berlin Wall or Enron’s book cooking can relate.

Taking into consideration that most youth don’t know the words to any musical that isn’t prefixed by “High School,” it’s probably not a stretch that “Overture” from "Cats" or “Luck be a Lady” from "Guys and Dolls" are probably going to fall on deaf, albeit tween ears.

The few tunes that attempt to cater to modern pop aficionados such as One Republic’s “Apologize” and K.T. Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” have long vanished from the Billboard charts. And The Black Eyed Peas? They aren’t music. Period. Anyone in denial can call up their "Tron"-themed Super Bowl halftime show performance on Youtube if they require a refresher.

But it isn’t just the not-so-well-aged tunes that should have us concerned with the fountain’s ability to keep up with the times — it’s the schizophrenic nature with which they’re presented; on most nights there isn’t a consistent genre, artist or overarching theme running between the songs. This “grab-bag” mentality might appeal to the tourist, for whom the spectacle of it all will likely override any musical leanings, but us locals wouldn’t mind more of a concerted effort to move away from this tactic.

Perhaps an electronica, dubstep or indie music night is in order? There must be more than a handful of up-and-coming artists who wouldn’t mind having their songs blasted across the shores of the Grand River.

Of course, some of the more traditionally inclined members of our community might balk at some of the music suggested or reject it as “noise” in a manner eerily similar to how their Beatles LPs were in decades past. Yet we think that if the Musical Fountain is going to keep us up at night for the next 50 years, it needs to be refreshed.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Kevin Collier and Liz Stuck. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.






dubstep?????? SERIOUSLY???????? yea, way to run the tourists off....who spend their money in OUR city for the summer.....I live and grew up here....I NEVER go see the fountain..(I did as a little kid) its NOT for the locals...its a TOURIST thing ....and those people range from ALL ages....so I think they have done a fine job in the music selection......to cater to everyone.......how old are you? 21? Im 43 and I live downtown, I hear it every night and have NO complaints on the music selection.


and thanks to this "Our View" I will be canceling my subscription the the Grand Haven Daily Fish Wrap..................GR press is where MY money will go!


Many people do not realize how long it actually takes to program a song (a couple of my recent programs 'Another Saturday Night', 'Give', and 'Whats New At The Zoo' took over 14 hours each to program), and did I mention that every single program in the fountain's database is done entirely by volunteers?

Right now there are 200 songs in the database (minus special songs for patriotic events and Christmas in July). Of those 200, there are only 60 or so with really good choreography that takes advantage of all the fountain is capable of. We have been trying to weed out the sub-par programs that were rushed when the fountain switched over to the new software.

Additionally, each night we make note of the audience reaction and adjust future shows accordingly.

Sadly, even though the programming software is freely available at www.ghmfsoftware.com, we very rarely receive new submissions. As far as I know, there are only two people actively programming new songs at this time; a young man from overseas, and myself. Due to the fact that my day job takes a considerable amount of my time (I am the signal maintainer for the Mid-Michigan Railroad that runs through town), between operating the fountain, and performing maintenance when we notice something wrong, I have very little time to volunteer programming.

That said, I am in the middle of programming one of possibly several new themed shows, the first of which will be titled 'Buffett Buffet' and will feature the music of Jimmy Buffett. I am also in the process of programming some new pop songs such as 'Call Me Maybe', and several kids songs as well.

The reason we typically don't focus on a theme or specific type of music is due to the fact that we want to include a wide range of music for our very diverse crowd each night. When I create the playlists, I try to have a little bit of everything in each show so that the show will connect with our viewers who span several generations. This is not saying there will not be themed shows in the future (like I said, I am working on several, the first of which will be playing some time before Coast Guard Festival), but we need to think of the very diverse crowds we have each night.

Over the past three years, we have saw our nightly crowds almost triple in size once we started playing more diverse shows with better choreography.

Finally, I want to invite everyone who wants a specific song to play to visit www.ghmfsoftware.com, download the software, experiment and program the song, and then submit it on the website. We could definitely use your help!

Mr. Conservative

If you are the signal maintainer, you should check out the Jackson Street crossing here in GH. It acts wierd.


If you ever witness it acting strange, please call the number listed on either of the signal masts (there will also be a DOT number). They will dispatch me out to check it out. Each month, it passes its monthly inspection, so unless someone reports a problem I most likely wouldn't know about it. I will double check everything tomorrow. Thanks for the heads up.


I went to the link and downloaded the software but there is not a list of the songs. Is there a list of the 200 songs and 60 good ones? Can I assume that the songs listed on the official playlist are the ones that are the 60 good ones? http://www.visitgrandhaven.com/n...


I love the fountain as it is! As a resident, I still take pleasure in enjoying the fountain. Although it isn't as "impressive" to a local as it is to the tourists, it is still awesome to watch. I too have zero problems with the music. I know some, I don't know some, and I don't care. It's just fun to go down there on a nice night with my wife and enjoy it.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained misplaced comment. Discussion Guidelines


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained misplaced comment. Discussion Guidelines


The Fountains are refreshing to most of us locals and mesmerizing to the tourists. Overall, it's really not so much about what song is playing, but about the memories that we make with our families and friends while we are there by the River at sundown...relaxing, having a great time, watching the Fountains, and taking in those moments that we simply want to freeze in time. To those of you who make the GH Musical Fountains happen for all of us night after night from Memorial Day to Labor Day....THANK YOU! MOST of us APPRECIATE you greatly and hope that you don't allow this distasteful article to damper your continuing effort to make Grand Haven such a very special place. God Bless!


I couldn't find any attempt by the editor to solicit comments from the Grand Haven Musical Fountain committee members, city officials, volunteers, the public or anyone before publishing this editorial. This editorial appears to have been intended to create "buzz." The editor earns a living from "buzz." Let's assume the editor intended constructive criticism. As the father of a young man who has choreographed over 20 young and popular pieces, I engaged in a little damage control to encourage my son to continue choreographing more pieces. He seems motivated to do a dubstep, and he will not be disappointed if the audience loves it or exits the stadium. Let's hope the "buzz" translates into more interest in the fountain, especially more choreographers, and generating more traffic for downtown businesses.


I really like it. This is so beautiful. I want to go here. I hope I can someday. It looks so magical. Good job on this. - Mercy Ministries


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