A 'cool' way to celebrate the Fourth: Water balloon war in Richland

Water balloons arced over the heads of the combatants, smacking the pavement and soaking warriors on both sides of the battlefield.

Laughs, cries, screams, threats and pleas to "reload" filled the air as about 75 Richland neighbors and friends duked it out for bragging rights for the next year.

Along the sidelines, the "noncombatants" watched the fun. The war was short -- about 10 minutes in all.

The water balloon bombardment has become a traditional Fourth of July event on the 1300 block of Sanford Avenue in Richland.

It's the third year of the chillin' tradition, after Jessi Evans of Richland came up with the idea of a water balloon fight to cool off on a hot Fourth of July.

The first year it started small, she said. Maybe a couple hundred water balloons.

Now, "we look forward to it every year," said Evans, stepdaughter of Dana Evans, one of the team leaders.

On Thursday, members of the team led by neighbors Dana Evans and Mirandy Donley started filling water balloons at 7:30 a.m. -- eight hours before the battle.

Across the street, Billy Priest said his team started at 10 a.m.

Together, the neighbors amassed more than 4,000 water balloons, a supply of water guns and several hoses.

The loser -- whoever ran out of ammo first.

Trash talking started three months earlier, said Dana Evans. Her team won the first two years.

And verbal barrage continued until right before Jessi Evans started the countdown.

Then, the water balloons flew, flung with equal vigor and enthusiasm by adults and kids alike.

The balloons were still ricocheting off of the pavement even after most of the water warriors were soaked.

As the water balloon inventory started to dwindle for Priest's team, some tried catching and tossing balloons lobbed their way and stealing ammunition from a large green pool.

A last ditch effort was made to employ tubs of water.

Finally, Priest conceded. "We are done, we are done!" he shouted.

The balloons still flew.

Bragging rights went to the reigning champions, team Evans and Donley.

"The best 10 minutes of my life," Dana Evans said.

Dave Meyers of Richland and his son, Skyler, 10, helped the winning team triumph.

"It's just kind of like the good old fashioned family feud once a year," Meyers said.

Skyler said it's just plain fun.

"It's fun hitting people in the face," he admitted.

The face is the only place to aim, or the only thing that will get hit is the street, Meyers said.

Priest, who still had a piece of balloon stuck to his sunglasses, wasn't deterred by this year's loss.

"We'll get them next year," he vowed.

Both sides of the battle came together for a neighborhood barbecue -- with a potential side dish of some friendly razzing.

And the next day, everyone pitches in to clean up the balloon corpses strewn across the battlefield.