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Seattle Center Fountain Means Summer In The City

Marcie Sillman

In Seattle, nothing says summer like being near the water. We boat, we swim, and we like to splash around in the International Fountain at Seattle Center. But next time you're dashing through the water jets, stop for a second and just listen. Yes, that's music you hear, a special International Fountain rotating soundtrack. You'll hear everything from classical music to ska. KUOW's Marcie Sillman introduces us to the man behind the music.


Summer has gotten off to a gray start, but rest assured, the sun will come out — sometime. And when it does, you might want to check out Seattle Center's International Fountain.

Sound: Kids running through water.

Even on a not–so–warm summer day, a few dozen kids dart around the cement fountain bed. They're playing chicken with the sporadic jets of water that burst out of the fountain's huge shiny metal hemisphere. When afternoon rolls around, they'll be splashing along to the Fountain's summer soundtrack.

Sound: Music.

James Whetzel is Seattle Center Fountain DJ. It's a job he's done for the past 12 years.

Whetzel: "I don't pick everything in it. There's some things that it shoots off the giant jets to, that I didn't choose. But I do all the stuff when it's not shooting off the giant jets, it's my choices."

Whetzel looks for a broad range of music. He has to program for Seattle Center's diverse audience.

Whetzel: "For people who are from Seattle, for people who are just visiting, for kids, definitely, and for adults. So I try to have a little something there for everyone."

Whetzel changes out the soundtracks every couple of weeks, so they've got seasonal themes. He also tries to include a healthy dose of local artists in his digital playlists. If you're a big fan of Seattle's music scene, you'll want to check out Whetzel's August mix.

Whetzel: "Every year, kinda before Bumbershoot, I do what I call the Bertha Landes playlist. So it's all local music, it's all featured local stuff."

We'll never know whether or not Seattle's first female mayor would have appreciated Whetzel's tribute. But the summer crowds at Seattle Center are sure to enjoy splashing to the music.

I'm Marcie Sillman, KUOW News.

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