New water effects added to Grand Haven Musical Fountain

GVL / Courtesy -

GVL / Courtesy –

Drew Schertzer

In 1962 the Grand Haven Musical Fountain was put up for display. Initially, it only showcased a small amount of talent. Now, 55 years later, the fountain is fully equipped with sound effects, a small light show and several water effects.

Five students from Grand Valley State University’s electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and product and design manufacturing majors were selected last year to begin working on making additions for the fountain. 

Terry Stevens, an electrical engineering professor at GVSU who holds a position on the committee for the musical fountain, said the fountain hadn’t previously received an update since getting LED lighting and an updated sound system in 2013. The new water effects allow the fountain to shoot water in a way that gives the appearance of it moving in different designs.

The two designs added were a “wave” and a “helix.”  Stevens said the wave design moves like a crowd doing the wave at a sporting event, with the water moving back and forth. The helix design causes the water to take an appearance of a giant sprinkler or firework. 

To highlight the finished updates for this year, a showing for the fountain was held the evening of Saturday, Sept. 16. Here, Stevens said about 4,000 people gathered to see what the new design would bring to the famous fountain. 

Allie Graff, now graduated, was one of the few students selected to work on the project. Graff, a product design manufacturing major at the time, said the project took a year to complete in total. The first part of the project was to design all the changes, and the second task was to build it. She was ecstatic when her team was finally able to reveal the product to the public. 

“It was pretty exciting the first nighttime test we did for the fountain,” Graff said. “Even just how excited the crowd of people cheering and clapping when the features came on.”

According to Graff, she and her team of four colleagues spent countless hours on the project. They took time to place 200 feet of pipe and evenly spaced valves every four feet across the fountain. She said the wave feature alone took three to four months to design.

The fountain designs weren’t created without struggle. Graff said they had to make sure parts arrived on time, and the team had to work hard to meet the deadline. The new installation, and 50 valves and nozzles along the 200 feet of pipe, made room for a lot of error. 

Graff said if they had made a mistake with their method of installing a nozzle, they could have repeated the process 50 times. 

She said she was grateful that Stevens was there to guide her team along the way. She said it was nice that the person they were trying to impress was so close to the project. 

The Grand Haven Musical Fountain operates most days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Stevens said there are currently plans to renovate the sound board again next spring. 

“I think (the fountain is) a focal point for the city of Grand Haven,” Stevens said. “This visionary focal point year after year allows people to enjoy its wholesome entertainment for free.”

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