Firefighters entertain festgoers

Ryan Denko dips his shoes into the portable water tank used in water fights on Sunday at the Wheatland Fire Department festival in New Munster.

Firefighters entertain festgoers
June 30, 2008
KAREN MAHONEY

Read & React

NEW MUNSTER – Wheatland firefighters put their ability to the test Sunday, battling other fire departments from Kenosha County and northern Illinois in their annual water fighting competition at the town festival.

Strapping on their boots, helmets and jackets for the tradition, three- to four-member teams grabbed their fire hoses and anxiously awaited the signal.

When the whistle blew, hundreds of gallons of water sprayed in a tug of war to push a metal barrel across the other team’s line with their streams of water to victory.

Although only a few spectators got wet in the process, a few of the younger visitors were intentionally wet. One Wheatland resident who wasn’t afraid of a little water was 4-year-old Ryan Denko, son of Wheatland firefighter Lou Denko. The soaking wet youngster nearly dove into the portable water tank used to supply water for the fight, to retrieve his plastic clogs.

“Yeah, he’s having a great time; just give him a little water and he’s a happy camper,” Lou Denko said.

Winners of the event are given a trophy, but that isn’t what brought Kenosha resident Jim Damask to watch the competition for the first time. Damask, 45, just wanted to see the giant spray of hoses and could barely contain himself when firefighters opened the spigots and began their streams of water.

“This is my first time to see something like this, ever,” he said, beaming. “I am excited to see what they do. I love everything to do with the fire departments and the police departments. It is great to be here.”

Damask’s friend Bob Kundee, a 37-year veteran of the Wheatland Fire Department, was judging this year’s competition after many years of participating on the Wheatland team.

“This water fight thing goes back at least 50 years, I think I remember going when I was a kid,” he said. “My pal Jimmy is going to love it – he’s a good kid. My five kids grew up watching these every year too and we always draw a good crowd.”

The fire department water fights concluded the three-day Wheatland Fire Department festival, the largest fund-raiser of the year for the fire department.

In its 39th year, the festival’s weekend events included live music, a parade, softball and volleyball tournaments and a chicken barbecue.

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