Friday, May 05, 2000

Join party for city, landmark




By CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

columnist
        When the Tyler Davidson Fountain is unveiled Saturday night, all Cincinnati should head for Fountain Square and enjoy the party.

        The heart of the city, the place where Cincinnati has celebrated community triumphs for 129 years, has been saved.

        Good citizenship lives.

        And the city proved it can pull together to tackle a tough job.

        The civic centerpiece stood forlornly neglected, more or less forgotten, two years ago when this column first described its decaying plight.

        Local pride rallied on behalf of the fountain, Cincinnati's most visible landmark. Three million dollars in private donations were raised, $2 million for repairs, $1 million for a maintenance endowment fund.

        Work on the fountain is finished. The city's most visible restoration project became an exercise in teamwork and doing a job well.

        Isn't that reason enough for a party, I asked four months ago, when it looked as if the unveiling would pass by scarcely noticed. The idea took root and flowered.

A gift
        “To The People Of Cincinnati” proclaim bronze letters at the feet of the Genius of Water, the 9-foot tall lady atop the fountain.

        Freed from the shackles of years of grime and corrosion, those words will be highly visible when the wraps come off the fountain.

        Saturday's unveiling is officially set for 8:30 p.m. But the party begins at 4 p.m.

        Since the fountain belongs to us — and there is only so much room on the square — everyone should head downtown early to have fun at the party.

Height of pride
        The two-day fountain fest will have a distinctly Cincinnati flavor.

        Homegrown music from Pure Prairie League. Hometown beer. Fruit from Findlay Market. Rozzi's fireworks. Cookies decorated with images of the fountain, tinted in the landmark's old green color or new brown shade.

        Jim Scott, Cincinnati's king of AM radio, will emcee the unveiling. Gov. Bob Taft, Mayor Charlie Luken and Charles Lindberg, the local attorney in charge of twisting arms to pay for the $3 million restoration, plan to deliver brief remarks. Then the governor will uncover the fountain so its water and light systems can go through their 111/2-minute routine.

        Thousand of eyes will be on the master of ceremonies, the politicians and the lawyer. I'll be looking for four other guys: Mick McCarthy, Paul Lashua and the Watkins brothers, John and Maurice.

        They put finishing touches on the fountain this week and plan to attend the unveiling. “It's not to be missed,” Mick said as he and Paul installed a stainless steel grate. “The sight and sound of water is very relaxing.”

        Paul wants to see “the finished product. With the work we put into this fountain, it's only going to be unveiled once in our lifetimes.”

        “I'm coming down just to hear the ooos and ahhs when people look at the details they haven't been able to see for years,” John said.

        “The green crud is gone,” Maurice added. “It's worth coming down here just to take a gander.”

        He stepped back from the fountain and looked up at the Genius of Water.

        “Since she's been cleaned and put back together,” Maurice said, “there's something different about her.

        “She looks taller.”

        Could be she's standing taller out of pride. She's proud of the work and dedication that saved her from ruin. She's proud of the people of Cincinnati.

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

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