Millennium Fountain in Rockford
    Mabel Norgard, 8, of Garden Prairie plays in the newly opened Millennium Fountain on Friday, June 7, 2024, in downtown Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
    By Kevin Haas
    Rock River Current
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    ROCKFORD — You are now officially welcome to beat the heat in the downtown Millennium Fountain.

    Mayor Tom McNamara with the help of some local youth on Friday switched on the newly upgraded fountain, which was renovated with new water infrastructure and padded equipment that makes it safe to splash around.

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    The fountain, which rests near the east bank of the Rock River along Water Street, was designed to be decorative when it opened in 2000. It was previously on a closed-loop system that recirculated dirty water. Now, it pumps through treated city water.

    “You weren’t actually supposed to play in it, as inviting as it was. It actually wasn’t even legal to be playing in it,” McNamara said. “Today it is an open-loop system that allows people to come and play and engage in it, especially our youngest citizens who are down here enjoying the (Rockford City Market) with their family and their friends.”

    Residents have dipped into the decorative downtown fountain for more than two decades despite warning signs telling them to stay off the structure and out of the water.

    Eydan Cortes, 3, runs through the Millennium Fountain as Evynelly Cortes, 8, and Paola Aguilar of Rockford play in the water on Friday, June 7, 2024, in downtown Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    Health officials say water features that recirculate water without disinfecting it, as Millennium Fountain previously did, can spread germs and cause illness. That’s why the city posted warning signs against playing in the fountain.

    But those signs were often ignored.

    The city undertook a series of renovations to update the equipment and make it safe for people to dip in this summer.

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    An $816,375 renovation of the 24-year-old fountain made a variety of infrastructure and landscaping improvements. It was designed by Fehr Graham and built by Stenstrom Construction.

    The project was paid for primarily by the city, with support from the Rockford Park District and a $200,000 state grant secured by state Rep. Joe Sosnowski.

    “The dog days are summer will be coming, and it will be fun to see the community gather together at the splash pad,” said Sarah Chevrier, community relations coordinator for Sosnowski’s office. “What a great spot, right on the river in downtown Rockford, to bring the community together.”

    This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas

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