Fountains are sort of the ultimate water feature in many cities. Famous “coin collectors” include Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain, and London’s Trafalgar Fountain. But those have got nothing on the Missouri city celebrating Fountain Day on April 14.

Photo courtesy of Kansas City Parks & Recreation

By Peg Cameron Gill

You’re invited to join Kansas City Parks officials and members of the City of Fountains Foundation (COFF) as they kick off Fountain Day in the city of fountains.

Fountain Day is the day Kansas City, Missouri’s fountains return for the season. It’s a spring ritual each year to turn many of them back on at once, and a holiday that’s unique to Kansas City. This year’s Fountain Day is extra special, because it’s the COFF’s 50th anniversary and the start of a new partnership with the KC Royals to “bring out the blue” all season long.

The celebration features a special appearance by the Royals’ official mascot Sluggerrr, and a performance by The Fountain City Brass Band. You can also purchase commemorative 50th Anniversary items to mark the occasion.

The festivities kick off at 10 AM at Mill Creek Park Fountain, Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard, and Mill Creek Parkway.

Photo courtesy of Kansas City Parks & Recreation

Known as the City of Fountains, Kansas City is believed to have more of these water wonders than any city except Rome. You might wonder why. According to primary sources in the Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City’s fountains at first sprang up as a matter of practicality – used solely in the 1890s as troughs and drinking water bins for all the horses passing to and through the city.

By 1904, the first public drinking basin for horses was built near the Intercity viaduct, now known as the Lewis and Clark viaduct, in Kansas City, Kansas. The fountain was moved a few times before it was donated to the Wyandotte County museum. 

Photo courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections

But enough about horses. Let’s dip into some history. The first municipally built fountain was situated at 15th and Paseo in KC. It was part of landscaper George Kessler’s plan to develop the area. The fountain, which opened in 1899, cost Kessler $12,000, or nearly $300,000 in modern money. Unfortunately, this fountain no longer exists. It was destroyed in 1941. This makes the Women’s Leadership Fountain (also built in 1899), at 9th and Paseo, the city’s oldest surviving municipally built fountain.

Photo Courtesy of City of Fountains Foundation

Fountains can be found all across town, some mammoth and majestic, others smaller and more sedate, but just as impressive in their detail and design. According to COFF, Kansas City’s greater metro area has more than 200 officially registered fountains.

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.