In a cavernous warehouse tucked away in a gritty part of Cape Coral, Michael Przystawik is watching his workers assemble what will become a huge water show extravaganza in Vietnam.
Przystawik's company, Waltzing Waters, specializes in fountains that shoot giant 100-foot sprays of water synchronized with music and lights. The fountain for a park in Vietnam will measure 330 feet long with 101 pumps that will shoot water sprays while music and lights pulsate to create a choreographed show.
Including the Vietnam fountain, Przystawik has two other giant fountains on order that represent a total $10 million in sales. “I do two to four projects a year,” he says.
It takes anywhere from three months to a full year to build a fountain and choreograph the music and the lights with the sprays, which he's dubbed liquid fireworks. “We custom manufacture to suit the project,” Przystawik says.
Although he's built fountains for some of the biggest theme parks in the country, including for Disney and Universal, Przystawik says some of his best customers are in Asia. In many Asian cultures, water is associated with wealth and prosperity. “They have a better appreciation for the artistic aspect of it,” he says.
Przystawik's fountains have been installed in Hong Kong and Singapore, for example. In 1996, Waltzing Waters built a fountain to celebrate the Sultan of Brunei's 50th birthday party that included a performance by Michael Jackson.
“The American market is such a frustration to me,” Przystawik confides. That's partly the industry's fault, he acknowledges: “The fountain industry as a whole doesn't have a great reputation.”
That's because many fountains require constant maintenance because they're not well designed, and often they're an afterthought in an architect's design. “None of them grasps programming and the design process for reliability,” Przystawik says.
U.S. customers such as mall developers and theme-park operators are always looking for the least expensive system, which invariably breaks down more often because of cheaper materials and poor design. “They belong to big conglomerates that are obsessed with the bid process,” Przystawik grumbles.
Waltzing Waters has been in this business since 1928 and has patents on the technology. Przystawik is the third generation of his family to run the business, making changes to the designs to keep them simple to operate and maintain. He speaks from experience: “I've stood at the control board when you push the button and nothing happened,” he chuckles.
The company moved to Cape Coral in the early 1960s when the developers of the city commissioned Waltzing Waters to build a fountain. Przystawik's grandfather, Otto, started the company in Germany and his father, Gunter, was an original charter member of the German American Club in Cape Coral, where he created an attraction with the fountain as a centerpiece.
But work dried up during the most recent recession and Przystawik almost shut down the business as customers delayed purchases. “You've got to plant that seed, and it takes years and years,” he says.
Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss
Watch videos of Michael Przystawik's water shows in action at WaltzingWaters.com/video-gallery.