MORRIS – Like any family, the brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighters have a bit of rivalry with each other.
And each year at the Grundy County Corn Festival, staff from local districts and departments take their fight to the streets, where they battle using fire hoses to get a barrel past their opponent to take home bragging rights in the annual water fight contest.
“You see everyone you know each year,” Charlie Boyd, Braidwood Fire Protection District safety officer, said Wednesday night before the water fights began on Washington Street in Morris.
“It’s a family reunion,” added Tim Nance, a Plainfield firefighter participating with Braidwood Fire Protection District for the water fights.
Boyd, who has been involved in water fights for 44 years, said there is a method to the madness that many who come out to watch probably don’t understand.
He said the idea is to get the weight off the pulley that attaches the barrel to the line. He said once the weight is off the pulley, a steady stream can knock the barrel back over the opposing teams head, leading to victory.
The sidewalks were packed three and four people deep with spectators and younger water visitors stood in the empty parking stalls hoping to get wet from the fireman’s advancing hoses.
“We come out every year to watch the fights. It’s become a tradition, a way to start off Corn Festival,” visitor Jamie Bryant said. “The kids really enjoy getting wet and seeing the firefighters up close.”
The kids stood, arms stretched wide, as they waited for the water to rain down on their heads as they ran and giggled under the drops.
Among the spectators are often the spouses, children and parents of the firefighters. Shouts can be heard to “go, go, go!” as their loved ones push the barrel back.
“It’s a fun event for the public to see,” said Scott Swanson, Morris firefighter and referee for the water fights. “It’s a tradition and a way to have fun with neighboring districts.”
Just like any family, firefighters often step up for one another. Some firefighters battle for more than one district to make sure there are enough people for everyone to compete.
As long as they aren’t the nozzle operator for the neighboring team, they can still compete with their own team.
There were 11 teams battling Wednesday night for the championship: three from Morris Fire Protection District, two from Lisle Woodridge Fire Protection District, and one each from South Wilmington Fire Protection District, Mazon Fire Protection District, Chatsworth Fire Protection District, Braidwood Fire Protection District, Lisbon-Seward Fire Protection District and Newark Fire Protection District.
They went head-to-head in a double elimination match with a winner and loser bracket that was still taking place as of press time.