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Column: The great water balloon war

Managing Editor

Published: Friday, April 20, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

With graduation fast approaching, I want to take a moment now to talk about something completely different for a change.

We’ve experienced some amazing things here at UConn over the past four years; championships in basketball, drama in football and endless weekends of wings, fun and friends in between. Each of us has our own story, and when we grow old we’ll always remember where we were when Kemba made that shot against Pitt, or when Dave Teggart kicked that field goal against South Florida.

Now, I have a memory from before UConn that’s like that, back before I became a Husky and was just another high schooler with the whole world laid out before me. It has nothing to do with sports, or anything really, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the Top Five greatest events in human history, so I’m going to share it with you. This is the story of the greatest water balloon fight ever fought.

It was August of 2007. I was 17 and about to start my senior year of high school. At the end of every summer, I always went away to C.A.M.P.S., a weeklong catholic retreat for high schoolers that never failed to be a highlight of the year. That year was no exception, and when the week was just about over, we all went to bed anticipating a good night’s sleep before getting on the bus and heading home the next morning.

That lasted until about 4 a.m., at which point our cabin leader woke us all up and told us we had to go to the meeting hall right away.

Honestly, I thought someone died or there was a terrorist on the campground who was breaking into cabins and setting things on fire. It didn’t really matter that my cabin leader said we were up for a planned event; it was 4 a.m. on the last morning of the week. Something weird was up.

Once we got to the meeting hall, the first thing I noticed is that there were only guys there. All the guys at the camp, as it turned out. The camp coordinator, Steve, stood up and explained what was going on. Twelve years earlier, he explained, the girls had planned a prank where they filled up thousands of water balloons, woke up early, lured the guys into a field and then ambushed them.

“It’s been 12 years now, long enough for everyone to forget,” Steve said. “So now, we’re going to get them back.”

Oh baby.

The plan was for us to all go to a truck on the far side of the campground where we would load up on water balloons and then wait for an ambush in the woods. Once we were in position, someone would wake up the girls, tell them there was going to be a special event in the field, and then we would get them.

We ran across the field in near total darkness, and soon a pickup truck came into view. Even from afar, it was a truly incredible sight – thousands upon thousands of water balloons were loaded into the back of the truck. This was going to be great, I thought.

But as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, a couple of other things caught my eye all at once. First I noticed that there was a second truck on the other side of the field. Then I noticed Steve had held back, and finally, I noticed a flickering light on his megaphone – undoubtedly a signal.

“Uh oh.”

Then… it happened.

The lights flashed on, the William Tell Overture started playing, and then all hell broke loose. I don’t mean any of that figuratively either, someone actually set up floodlights and a big sound system to light the field and blast the music. Even years later, I still can’t quite describe the sound of over 150 girls screaming like Amazons as they emerge from of the woods all around you. Or, for that matter, the sight of hundreds of water balloons suddenly taking to the air and filling the sky like Persian arrows in “300.” Actually I can, it was absolutely terrifying.

There was no time to think. In about three seconds, I was going to be completely and utterly destroyed if I didn’t do something. About six feet away from me was the truck, so I did the only thing I could. I jumped into the truck.

No sooner did I close the door, water balloons started pounding the roof and windshield. Someone outside the door yelled “Oh my God! They’re everywhere!”

I took a deep breath, looked to my left and then nodded at the amused staff member sitting in the driver’s seat.

“’Sup,” I said. “Mind if I hang out for just a moment?”

He laughed, “Sure thing man, I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want to be out there either.”

In retrospect, jumping into the truck probably wasn’t the most courageous thing to do. But if this was war and those were grenades, I would’ve been the guy that lived, so that has to count for something. Granted, I probably would have developed severe PTSD and spent the rest of my days filled with regret, my nights tortured by the ghosts of war and a lingering guilt that I was the one who survived, but I’d still be alive, right?

Judge me all you want, I didn’t get soaked right off the bat.

Anyway, in a few moments the balloons subsided. I thanked the staff member for not locking the passenger door and then I got out and joined the fight. The girls had used up all of their water balloons and they were running back to their truck to get more, giving us the opportunity to hit them back hard. We all grabbed water balloons, and about half of us chased them back to their truck while the rest formed up in the middle of the field to lob shots at them from a distance.

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