The Rotary Club of Dawson County made a splash Thursday with the grand opening of Rotary Island, an interactive water playground at Rock Creek Park.
Hundreds of kids were lined up to be among the first to run through the sprinklers. The excitement continued throughout the Labor Day weekend as families enjoyed a break from the late summer heat and cooled off in the cascades of water.
"This is unbelievable to see this thing happen," said Vernon Smith, the club's immediate past president. "This means a lot to the people of Dawson County."
Just moments before the ribbon was cut to signify the official opening, Smith read a poem outlining his vision for the waterpark.
"May the Rotary wheel forever spin, be wet or dry. May the children playing under it forever laugh and never cry. Rotary Island is for the kids. May they enjoy it for many years. I hope it brings much laughter and never any tears. For this year and many more to come, for us Rotarians, it's been a lot of fun."
The three-dimensional, interactive waterpark features a 40-foot diameter with five above-ground water sprayers and six ground-level sprinklers. It's adjacent to the park's children's playground and adjoins the pavilion.
The club earlier this year committed to building Rotary Island at an estimated cost of $54,000 for the first phase.
Funded by proceeds from its annual golf tournaments over three years, the attraction is the club's biggest project since forming in 1992.
"A lot of people really worked very, very hard ... thank you so much. Thank you again for all your hard work in raising the money and the effort that's going to be spent building it," Smith said.
Etowah Water and Sewer Authority has pledged to provide water free of charge, up to $5,000 annually.
Mike Berg, chairman of the Dawson County commission, commended all involved.
"It's great that so many folks are here," he said. "On behalf of the board of commissioners, the county manager and all our county employees ... thank you for what Rotary has given to the citizens of Dawson County. And that's what this is all about."
The project further demonstrates the club's commitment to community, according to State Rep. Kevin Tanner.
"When I was president of Rotary in 2004, we built the reflection park here at Rock Creek. This has outdone that. I appreciate it and I'm glad to be a part of it," he said. "This is something that Dawson County can be proud of for many years to come."
Rotary Island will remain open through September. Admission is free.