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Vandalism Or Good Clean Fun? Sudsy Prank Doesn't Harm Fountain, Expert Says

By Patty Wetli | June 7, 2017 6:22am | Updated on June 7, 2017 4:00pm
 The occasional prank on Giddings Fountain has become a near weekly event.
The occasional prank on Giddings Fountain has become a near weekly event.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

LINCOLN SQUARE — There are bubbling fountains and then there are bubbly fountains.

Every so often, an unsanctioned dose of some sort of foaming agent — dish soap? laundry detergent? shampoo? — transforms Giddings Fountain into a frothy cascade of suds.

The fanciful bit of foolery, playfully executed with a dash of subversiveness, never fails to charm.

Toddlers squeal, teens lob lather "snowballs" at each other and grown-ups whip out their phones to freeze frame the proof that whimsy still exists in the world. If pranks could be reduced to emojis, this one would be a sparkle heart.

Though not exceptionally rare, the soapy shenanigans have been, til now, random and unpredictable. Yet in recent months, the formerly occasional occurrence has gained in frequency, to the point of near weekly regularity.

While familiarity hasn't necessarily dimmed the delightfulness of the joke, it has given some people pause to question: Is this a problem?

In terms of harm or damage to the fountain, the answer is "no," and that comes straight from Matt Saulka of Fountain Technologies, which holds a five-year contract to service and maintain the City of Chicago's public fountains.

"Obviously, this is a super common thing," he said of the sudsy high jinks. "It's just soap. It doesn't do anything. As far as vandalism, it's probably as innocent as it gets."

The fountain's plumbing and pump are made from very stable, chemical-resistant PVC, Saulka said.

"Soap wouldn't hurt it," he said.

Fountain Technologies hasn't received a single complaint related to Giddings Fountain, Saulka told DNAinfo, and even if he did have to pay a special service call to Lincoln Square, it wouldn't cost the city any more money than what's been written into the existing contract.

Spitballing worst-case scenarios, Saulka conjectured that, hypothetically, powdered detergent might lodge in the fountain's filter or possibly accelerate the tarnishing of the structure's bronze.

But frankly, wear and tear from climbing hands and feet pose far more of a threat to the city's fountains than soap, Saulka said, and so do motorists.

"I've had a few [fountains] in parkways hit by cars," he said.