Wood County Fair Water Ball Tournament 2021

Justin Spencer, left, and his brother, Nathan, both with the Risingsun fire department use a fire hose to move a ball during the Water Ball Tournament Wednesday evening at the Wood County Fair.

Volunteer firefighters converged at the Wood County Fair in Bowling for the inaugural Water Ball Tournament, which cooled down competitors and spectators on a warm Wednesday evening.

A nearly constant mist came down on spectators in the parking lot next to the Junior Fair Building, which was packed with nearly 200 spectators to watch the fun.

Firefighters played a game of inverse tug of war shooting their fire hoses at a yellow ball. That ball was made of heavy 16-gauge steel and hung from rollers on a 150-foot cable. The goal was to have the ball stay on the opponent’s side of the cable for as long as possible.

Each member of the four-person team had two fire hoses and wore a variety of safety gear, just in case an opponent was hit by the powerful streams of water.

Greg Whitacre announced and read from the four pages of rules, summed up with a hearty “have fun and wear your safety gear.”

The rivalry started early with a little friendly banter between departments.

Most of the firefighters had never been in a water ball contest, but that wasn’t going to hold back Tim Meighan, of the Middleton Township team.

“I didn’t know this existed until two weeks ago. We’re going from newbies to professionals real quick,” Meighan said. “Strategy? I’ll listen to what he says and he says, but we’re just here for the people. We’re not even going for the ball. Get ’em wet. Get ’em upset and get ’em not even thinking about that yellow ball.”

The 2020 Junior Fair King Sam Eiben was characteristically polite, but ready to do battle as part of the Washington Township Fire Department team.

“I’m doing the water ball here with my friends from the fire department. We got to do a practice last year, before they put the kibosh to the tournament, because of the pandemic last year,” Eiben said. “Oh, we’re going to get very wet. I think everyone wore their swimming trunks.”

Prior to the soaking, firefighter Orville Buehrer received honors for his 70 active years of service. The 87-year-old works with the Washington Township Fire Department. The six members who were there to be part of the competition lined up to congratulate him as he walked up to receive his award.

Buehrer last competed in a water ball contest 25 years ago at Liberty Center, where his team took second place. He had some advice for competitors.

“Oh, yeah, it’s fun. You’ve got to have the tallest man on the team with the nozzle on his shoulder and have a good back-up man, if you want to win,” Buehrer said.

Cheering and arm-chair quarterbacking had to be yelled over the noise of the four hoses, instructions from teammates and the sound of the mighty Bowling Green Fire Department pumper truck.

“I’ve played this a few times. You’ve got to hit the top of the ball,” yelled firefighter Kate Taylor, from the Rossford Fire Department.

Their department was on duty at the fair that night, but it was their water ball being blasted.

Ultimately, the Troy Township Team won, with Risingsun as runners-up and the Perry Township team coming in third.

In addition, Middleton, Perry, Perrysburg and Washington Townships, as well as Weston and two teams from Risingsun competed.

“We brought a bunch of guys together for this team, just like at a real fire, with mutual aid,” Jay Carter, from the Milton Township fire department said. He was one of the four members of the Perrysburg Township team.

His 9-year-old son, Logan, was watching the action.

“It’s really good. The guys are super wet,” Logan said.

All the event proceeds go back to the fire departments for the “Shop with a Hero” program, to help children during the holidays.

In the end it was a bunch of very tired and very wet firefighters shaking hands after three hours of fun.