“A declaration has been made! East has been challenged by the West to an all-out water fight on Canada Day. Bring your buckets and your water guns and all of the neighbours that you can gather!”
This brazen challenge to a water fight was issued. It was the grand finale for Calgary’s Crescent Heights community’s two-month long Village Days Festival and marked the beginning of new possibilities for this community. A water battle might seem like a surprising way to bring people together, but this unique water fight, supported through a TD Park People grant, is a great, and playful way to build social connections. As we highlighted in our 2018 Park Summit, where play was the focus, being silly and whimsical opens people up and openness is the basis for building new relationships.
Why a water fight?
Crescent Heights is a diverse community with some marked socio-economic differences that divide the neighbourhood. One half of the Crescent Heights community is quite affluent while the other half is more mixed to low-income. Crescent Heights Community Association (CHCA) dreamed up the idea of an epic water fight as a means of bringing the community together, not just geographically, but also socially and culturally. Kevin Jesuino, the engagement coordinator at CHCA, thought a water fight was the right concept for the challenge at hand since:
“Play is a great way to bring people together and we were trying to tackle some of the social issues that we have in our neighbourhood in a cheeky and playful way”
Just to give you an idea of the degree of playfulness, the group invited Kathleen Ganley, the Minister of Justice for the Alberta government, to share the rules of the water fight, a detail which Jesuino says “was totally fun.” Along with the usual instructions about no squirting before the whistle and no head or face shots, one of the most important rules of the day was that this was to be a “leave no trace event.” People were asked to bring their own re-useable water-weaponry (no water balloons that would leave pesky bits of rubber in the grass) and everyone was expected to do their part afterwards in cleaning up the park.
A learning opportunity
The water fight about fun and community engagement. It marked the start of a very important conversation about equity and inclusion. The goal was to use laughter and play to break down barriers and overcome perceived differences. The event also highlighted our shared connection to the land and water as limited natural resources. In the future, Jesuino says they would like to press this point even further. “We want to recognize that we are using this resource (water) that comes from the land, and yes, we are going to have A LOT of fun, but we want to take a moment to make sure that everyone is aware of what we are doing and show that we honour and respect nature and the environment.”
So, who won?
Jesuino laughs when we ask him about which side of the water fight came out victorious.
“It was just wild, everybody wins!” he says, “how do you decide who wins a water fight, anyways? In the end, we were all equally soaked!”
The organizers framed this event as a competition between the East and West sides of the Crescent Heights community, but the real point was to celebrate that they are all part of the same diverse and vibrant community. The group dispersed sopping wet and shivering but smiling from ear to ear. It was such a success that the community wants to make it an annual event. It sounds like another water fight challenge just might be in the works.