Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Let's throw a party to rededicate the Fountain

Council lets celebration planning fall through the cracks

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Workers lower fountain pedestal onto base Monday night.
| ZOOM |
        The 16,000-pound pedestal of the Tyler Davidson Fountain is back home atop its spiffed-up stone base on Fountain Square. Now it's time to move another dead weight: City Council.

        Cincinnati officials have dropped the ball on what should be the party of the year, the fountain's rededication ceremonies.

        Fountain Fest is what I want to call it. I see it as a one-day street festival this spring designed to welcome back the city's fully restored symbol with a parade, good food, a few speeches and some music.

        We should hold it on a Saturday, so thousands can attend. And perhaps it could include two grand unveilings, complete with one hellacious fireworks display.

        I checked on plans this week, to see how things are coming. Turns out council doesn't have a clue about what kind of event will be held, much less how or even when to stage the celebration.

Email your ideas or comments on Fountain Fest to Or contact Cliff Radel at (513) 768-8379; fax 768-8340.
        Get this: Vague requests for proposals from event planners went out from the city just last week. Professional event organizers tell me they need six months to a year to properly plan such a celebration.

        The problem is somebody has let this celebration — just like they did years ago with fountain maintenance — fall through the cracks. We need a big party, and we're behind the eight ball. City officials have just been assuming someone else is going to make it happen.

        Turns out no one has even decided yet on what day it's going to be held.

The right day
        The fountain was to be unveiled on Opening Day. Now Mayor Charlie Luken is seriously considering moving the event to the first weekend in May to buy more time for proper planning. Even if the party is pushed back to May, the mayor and council must act now.

        The lack of plans for a rededication is another tangle from the previous administration being taken up by Mayor Luken.

        “This event should have been planned a year ago,” he admitted. “But there was such futzing around over the whole square nothing could be set up.”

        He considers the party to be a top priority. “Rededicating the fountain, not opening the football stadium or Fort Washington Way, is going to be the party of the year.”

        So, let's start buying party favors. Rent some tents. Order the souvenir drink cups. And pick a date.

        City officials have long promised that the fountain will be ready for Opening Day. The fountain is traditionally turned on for the Reds' first home game of the season.

        Opening Day 2000 is April 3. The fountain's restoration is on schedule to be completed by that date. But why steal the Reds' thunder? More important, the fountain should not share the spotlight with a baseball team.

        Let the Reds have Opening Day to themselves. They earned it with their record last year.

        The fountain deserves its own celebration. A Fountain Fest is not too much to ask for the symbol of the city, the heart of Cincinnati. Hold it on a Saturday in May or even June, when the weather is nice.

How to party
        Fountain Fest obviously needs to be centered on the square. It also needs to spotlight and give us a chance to celebrate our great city.

        Ground zero is the square, but make plans for it to spill into the surrounding streets. Start with a parade. And make sure the city's many neighborhoods and ethnic groups are represented.

        Offer music from local marching bands, gospel choirs, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, rock groups.

        Feature Cincinnati cuisine: LaRosa's pizza, Montgomery Inn ribs, Graeter's ice cream, Wallingford coffee, our famous chili, Hudepohl beer and soft drinks including Cincinnati Water Works' best vintage.

        Stage two unveilings. Do one during the day, with the water off. Let people take a close look. Have the other at night with the water running and lights lit.

        Fireworks are a given. Just before the fountain's evening unveiling, blast off rockets from a hill far in the west and then set off fireworks progressively closer to the square from ledges of buildings along Fifth Street.

        Throw in some speeches, but keep them brief. Ask a variety of local people to share their feelings about the fountain. Even invite Ohio's governor, Cincinnatian Bob Taft.

        Governors with hometown ties and fountain dedications have a history here. When the fountain was moved and rededicated for its 100th birthday in 1971, Gov. John Gilligan, a Cincinnatian, spoke. In 1871, when the fountain was dedicated, Governor — and future president — Rutherford B. Hayes addressed a crowd of 50,000 people in the city where he had practiced law.

        “This work makes Cincinnati a pleasanter city,” he said of the fountain, “her homes more happy, her aims worthier and her future brighter.”

        What was true 129 years ago remains true today. The fountain represents a hopeful city. It is Cincinnati's Eiffel Tower, our Statue of Liberty.

        Dedicated to “the people of Cincinnati,” this fountain is the heart of this town. When a war ends or the Reds win a World Series, the city throws its biggest parties on the square by the fountain.

        The Tyler Davidson Fountain is being completely restored to its original beauty. The Genius of Water, the 9-foot-tall woman on top, will soon have a new golden bronze glow. She deserves a party fit for a queen.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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