Throughout the academic year, King’s President William Lahey hosts a dinner series in which groups of students from each of the residences are invited to dine with the president.
Shortly before the end of term, as the final dinner in the 2021/22 series drew to a close, President Lahey asked the students in attendance what they would like to know about King’s. First-year student and Alexandra Hall (Alex Hall) resident Diana Brimbecom raised her hand.
“I brought up the tradition of an April Fools Day water balloon fight to President Lahey …” Brimbecom says later, “I recalled reading about the water balloon fight on the school website when I was looking to apply to the Foundation Year Program, so I thought I would ask the school’s president if it was indeed a real event that happened…”
The year before, while Brimbecom was reading up on King’s traditions as a high school student in Toronto, Ellie Anderson, her future roommate, was researching King’s from her home just outside Philadelphia. She too, had spotted the water balloon fight on ukings.ca:
“When Diana [Brimbecom] and I found out that there hadn’t been a fight in years, we knew we had to bring it back,” Anderson says.
Though no water balloons had changed hands during his presidency, Lahey was intrigued to hear the students’ interest in reviving the tradition. Once back in the President’s Lodge, he says he gave the matter some thought and made some inquiries. The following day, he wrote to Brimbecom, saying:
“I have found out from facilities that there are several outdoor spigots that can be turned on for this. I have determined with [Assistant Dean of Students] Ashley Nixon that they are as enthusiastic about this as you are….
“There will be a need to ensure arrangements are made in advance to clean up the busted balloon parts afterwards—the shrapnel, if you will. But otherwise, I have done my part. Over to you!”
Nixon was up for the challenge and quickly mobilized the residence dons to help with the organization of teams and supplies—that meant supplying the Quad with 320 filled water balloons.
As the sun set over King’s Arts & Administration Building on April 1, an undeniable energy filled the air. By Nixon’s count roughly 50 students emerged from the residences and poured onto the Quad, ready for a showdown between Alex Hall and the Bays.
For Anderson, what came next was the best part. “I particularly loved the buildup,” she says. “People accumulated on either side and the energy was insane. The outfits ranged from swimwear (despite the cold) to sunglasses (to protect makeup) to rain gear from head to toe. It seemed like the people on the Bays’ side were strategizing and the people on the Alex side were loudly chanting and promising to take the Bays down.
“When we finally got started, there were war cries and friend turned against friend.”
Brimbecom says that students employed a range of tactics and were quick to shift gears. “The balloons were varying levels of effective, which led some students to pivot their strategy, eventually pouring buckets of water on one another.”
Anderson chimes in, “I have terrible aim so I like to get as close as I can to someone and then throw the balloon as hard as possible. I have insane respect for the people who managed to weaponize the buckets. Much more labor intensive but much more accurate.”
For Anderson, the event was anything but a wash.
“The turnout and the energy were more than we could have ever asked for. It was electric and wild.”
Brimbecom echoes her roommate’s approval, saying, “The event definitely did not disappoint and became quite the spectacle.”
In the aftermath, Nixon noticed that preparations for a 2023 rematch were already underway. “Many students stayed behind to take photos and talk about how to make the event even better next year.”
So who won? According to these two Alex Hall residents, there was no question.
“In my very biased opinion, Alex Hall was the clear victor of the day,” says Brimbecom noting, “It does however really depend on who you ask, so my hope is that the tradition is continued in the coming years to settle the discrepancy.”
For her part, Anderson is unequivocal. “We absolutely won.”
Both students extend their thanks to President Lahey and the staff who helped bring this tradition back.
“All around it was a fantastic night that couldn’t have happened without the efforts of Ashley Nixon, President Lahey and Ellie Anderson, as well as our whole residence floor, who really came together to spread the word and create excitement about the event,” says Brimbecom.
Anderson adds, “It was incredibly heartening that so many of our school administrators were invested in this event, conspired with us, and bought the supplies to make it happen. I can’t think of another school that would do that. It really reaffirmed my love for King’s and that I made the right decision in coming here.”
Representatives from the Bays could not be reached for comment.