The Grand Haven Musical Fountain is a synchronized water and light show accompanied with music of all varieties. Each 25-minute show features a variety of well-known music and plays daily at dusk from Memorial Day through Labor Day as well as Fridays and Saturdays in May and September.
The fountain is maintained and operated through the support of the City of Grand Haven as well as generous donations by you, our valued Guest. Donations help ensure that the historic fountain is cared for and upgraded for future generations to enjoy.
The fountain was the brainchild of Dr. William “Bill” Creason, a longtime resident, dentist, and former mayor of Grand Haven. He was a timeless visionary who saw the potential in the beautification of the Grand Haven waterfront. The fountain was modeled after a a Przystawic musical fountain show which Bill saw in Germany while providing dentistry for the US Navy after World War II.
Designed by a local engineer, William Morris Booth II (the patent holder), and built in 1962 by volunteers at an estimated cost of $250,000, this fountain was the largest musical fountain in the world when it was built; holding the title until 1998 with the installation of the WET Design built Bellagio Fountains at the Bellagio Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, NV.
Water & Mechanical Systems:
The display is comprised of a number of water formations grouped in odd and even segments, with the same formations mirrored on each. Augmented by a curtain of water at the front, a large fan-like array called the Peacock, and three fire hose nozzles – one placed vertically in the center (the Voice), and the others aimed at an angle from each end (the Bazookas) – the show produces a Dancing Waters style display. Other formations are called the Rings, the Candelabras, and the Sweeps.
The “sweeps” provide the moving effects, swaying side-to-side. A drive mechanism allows each pair of sweeps to follow or oppose each other in direction of movement, to move along long or short paths, hold or oscillate at positions, and to move at any of seven speeds, allowing the moving water to follow nearly any kind of music. The sweeps are driven by two hydraulic cylinders – each supplied from their own hydraulic pump.
The water nozzles have never been changed, only cleaned and cared-for. The water pumps consist of 2 – 100 HP and 1 – 75 HP which are wired at 2400 volts. The original installation had only 20 air piloted water valves. There is a 240 volt dual motor air compressor to supply the pneumatic system.
In 2017 the first new water features were added in over 50 years. Completed as a Senior Project by a group of Grand Valley State University (GVSU) School of Engineering students, the new features are called the Helix and the WAVE. The Helix is a four arm spiraling feature in front of the Peacock that can send water up to 50 ft. high. The WAVE consists of 50 nozzles along the back 200 feet of the fountain that create numerous patterns including firework effects and a “WAVE” similar to fans celebrating at a sporting event.
(New in 2015) Lighting is provided by 43 Acclaim Lighting Rebel Drum 36-watt RGB light fixtures roughly 8 inches in diameter as well as two Acclaim Lighting Dyna Drum HO 240-watt fixtures focused on the ‘Voice’ spout; the highest water formation, reaching over 100 feet in the air. The lighting units are capable of special effects such as color fading, strobing, twinkles, among others. The beam angle of each fixture ranges from 10 degrees up to 40 degrees and are strategically placed to ensure full-coverage of the water.
The lighting system is controlled through a DMX-512 universe fed by an Enttec DMX USB Pro with Acclaim Lighting X-Power HP Pro power supplies/controllers mounted within the fountain basin feeding the 24vDC required by the light fixtures across six channels (RGBRGB).
The fountain playback computer now controls the high speed LED lights directly over the DMX network while the PLC controls the water and sweep motions.
The sound system consists of 14 audio amplifiers providing more than 35,000 watts of audio power. There are 32 18″ JBL Subwoofers, and 12 JBL high frequency horns. The Musical Fountain Committee is currently in the early planning stages of upgrading the aging 20 year-old sound system and greatly increasing the audio fidelity our nightly Guests experience.
Control Systems and Programming:
The original control system used an 8 bit CNC paper punched tape and a reel to reel audio tape player which used “pulses” recorded on one of the audio channels to advance the paper punch tape to the next fountain control code. The fountain command codes drove a control system that was primarily a wired wrapped custom relay panel.
In 1983, the first industrial computer (an Allen-Bradley PLC-2/30) was installed, replacing the paper punch tape and the relay control panel. At this time, fountain control codes were embedded on an audio track of the reel to reel tape deck fully synchronizing the music and the fountain control codes. The fountain control codes were created by a Radio Shack TRS-80 personal computer for which George VerDuin created the software.
Later, DAT (digital audio tapes) cassettes were used for the audio and the fountain command code source. Around 1995 the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) was ungraded to an AB PLC-5.
In 2005 the audio source was converted to PC based .wav files with the playback software on the a personal computer sending the PLC the water and lighting commands. The playback software and a custom choreography software were developed by Brad Boyink and Jim Swarts of Meal Magic Corp.
In 2013, a group of GVSU School of Engineering students upgraded the PLC processor to an AB CompactLogix with a PanelView Plus operator interface. The new PLC system was generously donated by Rockwell Automation.
Even with the simplest of the many programs used to create shows for this fountain, choreographing one three-minute song can take nearly ten hours. While the original shows were quite simple and only featured around 300 lighting and water changes throughout an entire 25-minute performance, the new modern shows average 1,500 commands per song, with some reaching as high as 6,000 lighting and or water commands in a single song. Some of the modern themed shows contain as many as 17,000 water and lighting commands over a 25-minute program.
In late 2014, the fountain’s proprietary control software was updated and greatly expanded by a group of students led by Terry L. Stevens from GVSU College of Engineering and Computing and Paul Lyzenga of Apex Controls.
This greatly expanded the functionality that the fountain’s choreographers can tap into. With these expanded capabilities, audiences will begin seeing shows unlike anything seen before in the fountains 55+ year history. Individually addressable lights and greatly expanded sweep movements are just a couple of the new features.
More information about the fountain and the 1983 major upgrade is available here.