Here’s a deep and eternal truth: fill a bunch of water balloons and you’ll always have teenagers eager to launch them at their fellow humans. This is why we kicked off our summer this year with the biggest water balloon fight we could throw.
The only hitch was this: the day of the event we had the worst thunderstorm warnings of the entire year. There was lightening two hours before the event was about to start. It looked deadly outside. And we still had the best turnout for a summer kickoff we’d had in 5 years.
Water balloons are magic.
Even better than the high turnout, our students actually did what we always want them to do: they brought friends. 10% of the students who attended were first timers.
Also, the event cost practically nothing. Waterballoons cost about a penny a piece (15,000 x $.01 = $150). Volunteers filled them at home. Parents donated food. About the only other cost was the painter’s plastic we set the balloons on (balloons pop immediately on the grass).
Here are some tips to host your own mega-waterballoon fight*:
1) Publicize heavily Promote it the point that you think you might be wearing the students out, and that’s just about when you’re getting started. Publicize it hard. Social media. Videos.Texting and calling all the students. (Fortunately, you should have help here. We also found that, unlike many other events, our students were quite eager to help get the word out. They posted lots of Instagram pics promoting the fight.)
2) Recruit water balloon fillers: To fill 15,000 water balloons, we really only needed about 75 volunteer families. So we sent our youth staff upstairs one Sunday with a tons of sandwich baggies filled with water balloons. They just hit up folks to help out. Most people said yes and took a baggie. Each baggie contained 200 balloons and these instructions:
Some tips for filling water balloons . . .
- 200 water balloons should take about an hour to fill if you go quickly. It will go even more quickly if you have multiple people filling balloons on multiple faucets.
- Place 20-25 waterballoons in a white kitchen trashbag. Any more than this gets very hard to carry.
- You can fill the water balloons as far in advance as you want, as long as you store them in a cool, dark place. (Heat + sun makes water balloons pop.)
- Deliver them to [fill in the blank location] at [fill in the blank time].
3) Setup and secure the field: On the day of the event, we created the church logo out on the field using painter’s plastic, and placed the water balloons on them. (This took about 2 hours.) Then we posted sentries to vigilantly guard the water balloons.
4) Offer hospitality for visitors: When students started to arrive, we welcomed newcomers extensively, gave them a welcome gift, gave them a summer schedule, and got their information. (Later we followed up with all of them.)
5) Intro the event: Before the fight we publicized upcoming kickoff week events and weekly summer activities. We gave students a rundown of the rules (no throwing at anyone less than 5 feet away from you, no sneaking onto the field), and let them have at it.
Instant tradition at the church.
*It would be the height of ingratitude not to thank my friends at Christian Student Fellowship at the University of Kentucky, who inspired this idea by throwing the Guinness-official world’s largest water balloon fight two years in a row.