Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Newly acquainted friends Isabella Chung, right, 2, of Sugar Hill and Solange Fleury, 5, of Lawrenceville chat while being sprayed by the Big Splash Fountain in Suwanee's Town Center Park on Thursday.
SUWANEE -- Kids this summer are piling into mom's minivan with swimming trunks, goggles, and beach towels in hand for a summertime tradition. Saving themselves the trek to Tybee Islands or Six Flags' White Water, children have taken refuge from the heat at a closer destination -- Big Splash Fountain in the Suwanee Town Center.
Although closely rivaled by the terraced amphitheater, kids and parents alike argue that the interactive fountain is the heart of Town Center. While outdoor concerts mainly take place on the weekends, the fountain has a high volume of visitors every day, as it is open 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week from April 1 through Oct. 31.
After her first visit to the fountain, Cheri Edwards of Lawrenceville said she expects to bring her kids there at least once a week during the summer. "Our neighborhood does not have a pool, so we're trying to figure out ways to stay cool," Edwards said.
Deemed the largest interactive fountain in Gwinnett County, Big Splash, boasts 43 jets and uses up to 1,400 gallons of recycled water per minute. For patrons' safety, Suwanee checks the water quality throughout the day and enforces rules for fountain use.
"I feel pretty safe, because of the openness of the park," said Jeanette Waye of Lilburn. Waye explained that she feels at ease while her kids play because she can watch them from a distance under one of the more than 200 trees in Town Center Park.
Recently, the city increased safety precautions by requiring day cares, camps and organized groups of more than 10 to make reservations in order to use the fountain.
The change directly affects summer camps like Tiger Martial Arts of Lawrenceville. The camp frequently takes field trips to the fountain. "We used to come more often but because of the new system, we can only come twice this summer," said camp instructor Randy Martens.
The new reservation policy limits groups to two reservations per season and 2.5 hours per time period. Reservations are free but groups should not exceed 50 persons.
Moms at the fountain earlier this week said a Big Splash tradition is bringing several groups of kids together. Yamila Diaz of Norcross came with a group of three other mothers and nine kids. Diaz said when she visits she usually stays for two to three hours and brings food for an afternoon picnic.
Another tradition is playing on Suwanee's "front yard," the 10-acre greenery surrounding the fountain. April Mclain of Dacula said her kids like to take breaks from the water to play football on the lawn.