Fun for the Fourth

Every year at our house we celebrate July 4th with a barbecue and a huge water balloon fight.  This year for food we had burgers with lots of toppings, watermelon, BBQ chips, fresh black-bean-avocado-tomato salsa and bacon-wrapped jalapenos.  Then there were root beer floats and brownies for dessert.   This burger is John’s.

When it comes to water balloons, it’s crazy how fast a dozen or more people can decimate hundreds of water balloons– especially considering the hours it takes to fill them.  This year the kids filled 1200 balloons. In recent years we’ve added in some Olympic-style games to stretch out the fun a bit.  It takes some thinking to come up with games that are fun for a wide age span.  Along with pictures of our party this year– we had so much fun!  –I’ll describe some of the games for anyone planning a similar bash.  (Click on any picture to enlarge.) Winners of each game got to pick treats out of a big bowl.  Oreo packets and fun-size candy bars are unusual treats around here, and ratchet up the motivation even for less competitive kids.



We worked into the games with one of the simplest first:  the balloon roll.   Our driveway has a gentle slope.  Pick your balloon, set it down at the top of the hill, and see how far it rolls without popping.   The balloons tootle along, some popping almost instantly, some toddling 30 feet or more without mishap, with everyone watching intently.  Low skill but surprisingly intriguing, and definitely a game where the littlest people have as good a chance at winning as the older ones.


Next in our game lineup was a new game:  muffin-tin target-shooting. Five muffin pans were strung on baling twine between the house and a tree.  The nearest target was worth 1 point and the farthest was worth 5, with each player getting three shots at the target. With the way the tins sashayed in the wind, this game proved to be incredibly hard.  Even the guys with the best arms were only hitting any target once out of three shots.

The surprising winner of this game was our 6 year old, to whom we’d given handicap points since the game was so hard.  For her, the nearest target was worth 3 points instead of one.  She surprised us by hitting it twice in a row, which was once more than anyone else managed on any given turn.  She picked her treat– a sucker in the shape of a flip-flop — with an utterly delighted smile.


This year we tried a new twist on the traditional balloon toss.  Instead of one person tossing to another,  people paired up with towels between then and passed the balloon to another pair of partners.  This turned out to be a good way for people of varying ages and skill levels to pair up, and also seemed to encourage a bit more cooperation than the standard toss.  A nice twist that I think we will do again.


Also new this year was a game where someone tossed a hula hoop up in the air and people took turns trying to lob balloons through the hoop as it fell.  This one was also a bit difficult, but doable and fun.  We will probably do this one again next year too.




This game has been a favorite for years.  Going from youngest to oldest, everyone tries to throw a balloon as far as they can down the length of the driveway, all aiming toward the same distant object.  Once you’ve had your turn, you go stand at the location where your balloon landed, which of course puts you in peril of getting wet as each subsequent person takes his or her own throw, all aiming in your direction.  The continuous volley of incoming balloons keeps everyone interested in the game, and I’m always glad to be one of the oldest players.




Those games along with a rousing relay race rounded out the organized games for the evening.  Then it was time for the free-for-all water fight, during which time the remaining 800 or so balloons disappeared in, oh, maybe 20 minutes or so.








And here’s the crew at the end of the night.  Wet, wet, wet.

All except for our lovely photographer who pleaded diplomatic immunity due to the camera and opted to stay above the fray on the front porch.

And the fun didn’t end there.  When the sun went down we sat out by the swimming pool with root beer floats to enjoy the fireworks that we could just see over the ridge from the town 5 miles away.  And later yet, after most of the younger ones had been sent off to bed, we even found time for a little pinochle on the living room floor.  A night doesn’t get any better.


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  1. That looks and sounds like a whole lot of fun. 1200 balloons??? You NEED a bunch of kids to get all those filled! Wow.

  2. Lovely!

  3. Omigosh, SO much fun. I love the pic of (almost) your whole family all soaking wet 🙂

    Also, the face of one of your older girls (in the striped tank top) in the photo of the towel balloon toss… amazing.

    What a fun family tradition. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Looks like the perfect way to celebrate the 4th!!!

  5. Jennifer says:

    The idea of this, and then seeing the pictures, just makes me smile! How much fun! I gotta ask – how long DOES it take to fill 1200 balloons? I’m surprised anyone has their fingers left after closing them all!

    • This year 5 kids started filling balloons around noon. They took a break for lunch and got done around 5. The really crazy thing is that we started by buying 800. Then mid-afternoon when they were about done with that batch, they asked me to buy more because they didn’t think there were enough yet. I thought that was a testimony to how much they enjoy the water-fight. 🙂

  6. Looks like way to much fun! There is nothing like a 4th of July water fight.