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Mixing the perfect soundtrack for splashing, strolling at Seattle fountain

Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press file
Children play in the International Fountain at the Seattle Center on a hot summer day.

The International Fountain is back on at the Seattle Center. After the pandemic and a renovation, it’s once again attracting kids and adults who come to play in the water that shoots out of hundreds of spouts seemingly at random.

Adding to the atmosphere is an ever-changing sound mix, put together by the fountain’s very own DJ, James Whetzel.

When picking music, Whetzel thinks about the season.

“Summer I do higher energy stuff,” he explains. 

“This year’s a little different because, you know, it’s like we’re in a post-pandemic vibe,” Whetzel says. “So it is festive music but also it’s a little, not darker but, like, a little more thoughtful, a little more pensive than it would be normally this time of year.”

He looks for tracks from all over the world. He says even if they’re not consciously aware of where it’s from, people might be enjoying something from Ethiopia or Brazil. 

“I’m introducing people to music, and my goal is to create an inviting atmosphere for people to interact with the fountain.”   

Everyone from the daycare kids to the tourists zipping by on Segways seem happy here.

When asked what he likes about the fountain, one visitor said, "Dude, it’s got so much energy. All these elements just make this energy. Just look at the kids. They’re just plugged in, and they’re, like, they’re going off, you know. A nice hot day, it’s perfect.” 

It’s scenes like this that make the DJ smile. He’s been doing this job for 20 years. 

The music at the fountain can be heard daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Seattle Center.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.