Wednesday night's city band concert at the South Park gazebo was unusually dry.
Concerns about children climbing and playing in the nearby fountain caused the city to shut off the water during the concert and post signs warning people to keep away. During previous concerts, the fountain has been covered by a swarm of children.
"I don't quite understand why people think (the fountain) is a play feature when it's not," said Ernie Shaw, the city's recreation operations superintendent. "This is to look at, not to play in."
Shaw said safety was the main reason for the closure. He said at times children climb onto the slick granite bowl in the upper part of the fountain, creating potential for a serious fall.
In the past, city employees have found syringes left in the bowl of the fountain, he said. In addition, the water is recirculated water that's not meant for swimming.
"It's not like a water feature at the pool," he said.
The water was turned on again after the concert, but the city plans to shut it off again for the remaining two band concerts of the summer.
"I can understand it from a legal viewpoint. ... As a parent, I think it's sad," said Erin Kennedy, whose 2-year-old daughter typically plays at the fountain throughout the concert.
Kennedy said one compromise would be for the city keep the water flowing but to post an employee nearby who could turn it off if someone climbed into the upper part. Typically, older children - some of them unsupervised - are the ones who do the most climbing and splashing in the fountain's bowl, concertgoers say.
"There was a girl there two weeks ago who was filling up a cup with water and offering drinks to the 2-year-olds," said Karla Hughes, who brings her two young sons to the concerts in part because they like the fountain.
Hughes said if the fountain is a problem in its current location, it could be moved to another area and replaced with a fountain designed for playing.
Shaw said he's open to the idea of so-called "splash parks" in the city but that "it all comes down to priorities and money."
The fountain, dedicated in 1910 by Theodore Roosevelt, originally was posted in the middle of Ninth and New Hampshire streets as a place to water dogs and horses. It was moved to a different spot in South Park in 1965 and to its current location in the late 1990s.
At Lawrence's other popular public fountain, the Chi Omega fountain on the Kansas University campus, there is no official prohibition against climbing in for a dip.
"Generally, we prefer you go up, take a look and move on. I think people treat it respectfully," KU spokesman Todd Cohen said. "We'd encourage people to come throw money in it."