Kansas City’s Fountain Day delayed due to budget cuts

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The wait for the city’s annual Fountain Day celebrations will go awhile longer.

Most of the city’s 48 fountains have not been powered up for the year — a result of budget cuts across the board.

Fountain Day usually happens in mid-April, but this year, the observance will happen in May, according to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. In 2020, Fountain Day was canceled altogether due to COVID-19 concerns.

“We’ve been hit pretty hard financially,” said Terry Rynard, KC Parks and Rec Director.

Rynard said budget cuts have forced her department to save money, as well as water. Rynard said it costs roughly $1 million per year to keep the fountains running. Rynard said seven of them will be switched on in May, and she hopes to enable the remainder before the year’s end.

Rynard said these fountains will be the first to be powered up:

  • Delbert Haff Fountain near Swope Park
  • Mill Creek Park Fountain
  • Firefighters Memorial Fountain
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fountain
  • The Children’s Fountain off Burlington Street
  • The Seahorse Fountain at City Hall

“It’s part of our DNA,” Rynard said. “People don’t always notice when they’re on, but they certain notice when they’re off. We had a lot of feedback on that last year.”

Rynard said KC Parks were more popular than ever during 2020 since outdoor activities fit well with social distancing concerns. However, her department’s indoor facilities weren’t used at all, and losing that money hurt.

The fountains are, in part, maintained by the City of Fountains Foundation. Jim Fitzpatrick, the foundation’s vice-president, said these pieces of Midwestern culture are one of Kansas City’s many treasures.

“We will be able to get them all on, which is our goal as a board and as a city — to get them all on. It’s just spectacular and it means so much to Kansas City and to uplifting the spirits of everyone who goes past them,” Fitzpatrick said on Friday.

Rynard said that until very recently, it appeared the city wouldn’t be in position to start the fountains at all. Now, she’s encouraged knowing the water will flow again, and Fountain Day will return.

The only municipal fountain in Kansas City that remained on during the winter months is the Northland Fountain, which sits inside Gorman Park. The money for that fountain comes from a private endowment instead of city budgets.

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