FOX 17 UnfilteredMoving through the Mitten


The magic behind the Grand Haven Musical Fountain

Musical Fountain celebrating 60th anniversary in 2022
Grand Haven Musical Fountain
Posted at 9:33 AM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-20 10:40:43-04

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — The Grand Haven Musical Fountain has been a staple of the popular lakeshore community since it was introduced in 1962.

The idea was introduced by Dr. William Creason, a dentist who went to Germany to provide services to the troops. He went to a nightclub in Berlin, where they had a small fountain and an organ along a 12-foot stage.

When Creason arrived back to Michigan, he became the mayor of Grand Haven. In his position of power, he wanted to create something similar to what he saw in Berlin.

However, instead of placing a fountain in a nightclub, he built it halfway up a sand dune. Rather than building it 12 feet long, he made it 200 feet long.

The goal was to use this new attraction as a catalyst to beautify the waterfront, which was undeveloped at the time.

When it was installed 60 years ago, it was the largest fountain in the world. It's made up of seven smaller fountains, hundreds of nozzles and 70 valves that pump out 4,000 gallons of water a minute.

The original budget was $17,000. The final bill was $150,000.

“Well, I think what people don't realize is how complex it is," said Terry Stevens, the fountain's engineer. "I've actually sat in the stadium and and heard one person asked another — Do you think they use colored water? And it is so much more complicated.”

They have 19 weekday playlists, 10 weekend playlists and 10 themed shows, like Frozen or the 60-Year Celebration Show.

“Shows are about 25 minutes long," said Stevens. "They have typically five songs, maybe six, and each song takes anywhere from three to 10 hours to produce.”

Coding the shows can take a lot of time, but they also have to consider the fact that light travels faster than sound. Since the audience is watching the show from 800 feet away across the Grand River, they have to program the sound to be emitted 0.7 seconds before the corresponding lights on the fountain.

The fountain has been through a few updates in its history — they made the switch to LED lights in 2013 and upgraded the speakers and amplifiers in 2019 — but most of what you see looks just like it did on day one.

In addition to being the fountain's engineer, Stevens is also a professor in the GVSU School of Engineering. Each year, his students have to complete a senior project to graduate. Sometimes, that means programming a show at the Musical Fountain.

So, if you'd like to see their show, head to Grand Haven on August 27th. Their display will start at 9 p.m.

For the full story, don't forget to tune into the premiere of FOX 17 Unfiltered Monday night at 7 p.m.

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