ELY– For as long as there have been firefighters, there has been competition between fire companies. In the earliest days of organized departments, fist fights often broke out between competing companies to see who would put out the fire. Later firefighters would square-off in contests such as working hand-powered pumpers to see who could shoot a stream of water the furthest.
Then came waterball fights.
At some point, someone came up with the idea of hanging a barrel, or empty beer keg from a cable. At either end of the cable were two teams of firefighters, equipped with a hoseline and a straight-stream nozzle. The goal was to use the stream of water to push the barrel past the opposing team’s goal line.
Waterball fights are now a popular summer event for firefighters across the country and particularly in Iowa. Coralville is unique in hosting their famous Winter Waterball Fights.
The Ely Volunteer Fire Department has sponsored their waterball fights since 1972 as a fun afternoon of camaraderie and competition. This year’s event was held on Saturday, June 16, with women’s and men’s competition drawing teams from as far as Chariton and Deep River and as close as Ely and Solon. Hills, Riverdale, Hiawatha and Center Point were also represented.
In women’s competition the crowd was treated to a sister vs. sister fight as Abbe and Kristen Smith of Solon squared-off. The Smiths, daughters of Solon fire chief Dan Smith, took home first place (Kristen) and second place (Abbe) trophies respectively. Kari Tenborg, representing Solon, was the third place winner. Lindsey Wolfe of Hills was the fourth place winner.
In men’s competition, Ely’s Brad Malatek won fourth place. Randy Bowers of Riverdale took the first place trophy, Hiawatha’s Mike Hook won second place and Trent Kramer of Urbana defeated Malatek for third place.