Annual Water Olympics bring greased watermelons and battle of red vs. blue

The five-ringed symbol of the Olympic Games is intended to represent the colors of all nations in the quadrennial sporting event. On a much smaller and chaotic scale at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club annual Water Olympics last Thursday, only two colors are needed: red and blue.

Often referred to as “organized chaos,” thanks in large part to Waterfront Director Chuck Bauer, Water Olympics is a series of mostly lake-based activities that are in session all afternoon, where clubbers consistently shout their encouragement for either the red or blue team — a competition in and of itself.

“It’s organized in that every group knows which event they rotate to next, and it just kind of moves along,” said Jennifer Flanagan, program director at Club. “It brings everyone together in that one little area. It’s an eight-ring circus, with eight or so events going on at once.”

Competitions ranged from sand volleyball, a hula-hoop relay, an inner tube pull, a waterbound free throw competition, kayak races, a sponge relay, 25- and 50-yard freestyle sprints, water polo and a clash for a buttered watermelon.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to the basketball shoot and the kayak race, but I just want red to win because that’s my team,” said Aiden Magley of Group 6 Boys.

Benches were set up in front of the waterfront for clubbers to wait for their next activity but were effectively turned into bleachers for the red and blue teams to scream for their respective color.

Kids, covered in body paint, shivered as they hopped out of the water, caused by the cloud cover and brisk winds that swept around the lakeside during the afternoon.

Counselors Ashley Rohm and Makenzie Sletten were tasked with reapplying washable paint to clubbers as they jumped in and out of the lake. The most common designs were hand-painted six-pack abs, stripes and dots on shoulders and backs.

“They want it on their face, but we can’t put it on their face,” Rohm said. “We tell them, ‘Well, there’s paint on your bodies.’ There’s older kids who have it on their faces but they did it at home.”

By the end of the afternoon, a non-official purple team formed, thanks to the red and blue paints mixing with water.

On the competitive front, clubbers duked it out for their team, which has fueled a rivalry since the last generation of clubbers. Flanagan said the points, which are awarded to the winner of each event, used to be tallied throughout the summer to red and blue teams, but now exists only in Water Olympics.

“Any time a game was played during the summer — whether it be capture the flag or steal the bacon — the kids would be designated red or blue and they would get points for that,” Flanagan said. “We would keep a scoreboard on the front of the equipment room outside of the Boys’ Club and they would see the ongoing score.”

Though that tradition has since curtailed, others have sprung up.

The greased watermelon pull, a Club favorite, is a scurry between the two teams to retrieve the Crisco-covered fruit and bring it back to their respective side. As red and blue campers tussled for the reign of the watermelon, it resembled more of a rugby match than a fight for fruit. 

“There was butter on it,” said clubber Kayla Thielking after participating in the event. “It was really hard to grab.”

Anna Turcotte, a waterfront counselor at Club, was responsible for greasing the watermelon throughout the afternoon and officiating the game. Her hands and wrists glistened in the shallow water from excessive use of the shortening product.

The red team kept a consistent margin over the blue team, leading by as many as 25 points in the early afternoon. The blue team was able to whittle the margin down to five points near the end of the competition, which gave the blue team momentum down the stretch.

“We totally failed, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose,” said one clubber to his red team compatriots after they lost a hula-hoop relay.

The blue team fell short in successfully completing a come-from-behind victory and lost by a final score of 215-210. Campers screamed for the umpteenth time as the final results came in, but Flanagan said enthusiasm is all part of the event.   

“When you take a glance at it, it looks pretty chaotic but there’s a reason for the madness,” she said.