Summer Essay: Floating Balloons

Summer Essay: Floating Balloons

Liam Callanan shares a Milwaukee story about the perfect competition, The July 4th Water Balloon Toss.

It was down to three couples. We’d outlasted dozens, and now the mysterious grand prize loomed; my wife and I just had to win this final round. A bullhorn blew, then came the single syllable that’s the peak of my Milwaukee summer: “Toss!”

My wife and I moved here 10 years ago, and landed within walking distance of Milwaukee’s Lake Park. It has one of the city’s best 4th-of-July picnics, featuring ice cream, sack races and the keenest water-balloon-toss competition going.

Metaphors, like water balloons, are fragile things, so be considerate as I toss this your way: The July 4th Water Balloon Toss is everything that’s great about America. Unlike other back-and-forth sports — tennis, volleyball, politics — you only win when you work together. Throwing too hard just makes a mess.

We lost our first year, and many after. Then we learned: smooth hands, even toss, always smile. We got runner-up. Next year, we won – glory, and the mystery prize: a 6-piece cordless tool set. In other words, if you think democracy needs fixing, come by the park this July.

“Floating Balloons” is party of the essay collection, “True Stories,” which appears in the 2016 City Guide issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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