VENI VIDI VICI
“I came, I saw, I conquered,” is an expression made world-famous by Caesar when he was the emperor of Rome. He gave that phrase to the congress of the time, as his explanation of a commander’s winning a battle on foreign land. A twenty-year-old young man and his twenty-one-year-old companion decided to act upon those words and leave their imprint on Lake Geneva one early morning hour in downtown Lake Geneva.
How did this drunken duo create havoc in order to make themselves memorable to the citizens and residents of Lake Geneva? They did it by tearing down and then defacing the Riviera fountain, better known as the Driehaus Park Fountain, located in front of the Riviera Pier structure. Every summer it seems that drunken young people, in the early morning hours, want to leave their ‘stamp’ of presence in Lake Geneva by defacing the fountain (three times last year!). Well, it’s happened again, and summer isn’t even officially here yet. The iconic beautiful centerpiece in Driehaus Plaza Park, located at the entrance of the Riviera Pier structure, has been vandalized and damaged enough to need expensive repair.
Early last Saturday morning, at approximately 12:02 a.m., a Lake Geneva Police Officer drove past the Riviera and noticed a person hanging on the angel that adorns the fountain, and another person in the water below. The officer went into action and arrested the two suspects. The suspects had damaged the fountain substantially. The two arrests have been identified as being that of a twenty-one-year-old male from Fort Wayne Indiana, who is being charged with criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct, and obstructing an officer in the performance of his duties. The second perpetrator was a twenty-year-old male from Palatine, Illinois, and is being charged with damage to property and underage drinking. City workers from the Lake Geneva Street Department came out Saturday morning to collect the broken angel. They sent it off for repairs, which will take some considerable time and a lot of money. The city knows the drill as this happens one to three times every summer.
When is the city leadership going to wake up and hire a sculptor to make the fountain the same but using stainless steel for the material of its construction? St. Norbert College, up in East DePere, Wisconsin had this same problem. The originator of the college, long dead, was portrayed with a statue, located outside the main student hall gathering place. Every year the fraternities would paint the prior’s nose red (the statue’s nose). The college didn’t want to spend the money to have the granite statue remade out of steel or iron. Instead, they simply used a special diamond saw to cut off the statue’s nose. Lake Geneva must come to a decision point with respect to the fountain. Rebuild it out of iron or stainless steel, or simply take it down.
The defacing of the fountain by young drunken men has become a summer tradition in Lake Geneva. The only way to stop it is either to remove the fountain entirely or have it rebuilt out of a substance impervious to vandalization. Taking the fountain down will cost the city very little, only measured by the time and trouble of city street department workers. A replacement of the fountain by a similar artwork made of impervious materials would be prohibitively expensive. The third recourse is to simply continue to repair the structure after it has been damaged. Is the fountain really worth the six-figure series of repair prices each year? That is a question that can only be answered by the city council. Is there money enough to pay for a new statue of better materials? Is there enough money to continue to repair the thing time after time every summer? Does the Riviera really need to be fronted by a fountain of rather a modest size and proportion?