History of Nessie in Fountain Lake
“Rising Above the Rest,” published in 2010.
The Fountain Hill Shamrock Society was informally created in 1979 and its original members consisted of Terry Gill, Martin Dawson, Bob Evans, Bill and Jim Lavoie, Dick Sear, Bob Travis, Steve Nelson and Sid Apps. Meeting periodically to plan the next year’s activities, St. Patrick’s Day was never a dull event.
One of their creative ideas was to create “Nessie, the Fountain Ness Monster.” Built from the ingenuity of 55-gallon drums, a wood base, lots of paper mache, and the design of eight-year-old Justin Dawson, Nessie’s annual appearance became just as anticipated as the greening of the fountain.
To create the illusion that Nessie only appeared for a special visit on St. Patrick’s Day each year, templates of large footprints were made in Dick Sear’s cabinet shop and a green water-soluble paint was sprayed on Saguaro Boulevard using the templates to create a trail of footprints showing how Nessie came and left Fountain Park. The propellant to apply the paint was propane vapor, and it adhered to the asphalt so well that Pat Harvey of the Road District approached Terry Gill to find out what was used as it lasted longer than the striping paint normally used by the district.
Photo from the Fountain Hills Historian Group
In the following years, shamrocks appeared at various locations throughout the community as Fountain Hills further embraced its Irish side. Shamrocks were found on driveways, and sidewalks and were even seen hanging from traffic signals.
In 1991, the Fountain Hills Shamrock Society entered Nessie and their official vehicle, an old station wagon, painted green, that they called the Patty Wagon, in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Phoenix. They brought home a first-place trophy, continuing its tradition of spreading Irish cultural pride to both their local and far-reaching communities.
Have you seen Nessie? Have any memories of seeing her on St. Patrick’s Day at the Greening of the Fountain.