Water balloons

Team Tassy and the Great American Water Balloon Fight

Our coworking space is home to many remarkable organizations. Only one is filling 100,000 water balloons.

Great American Water Balloon Fight filling party at Station Street Hot Dogs

Last Saturday, a group of Beauty Shoppe members known as Team Tassy stood around in the parking lot of Station Street Hot Dogs, filling water balloons. This involved a home-made-looking contraption of blue plastic spigot, taps and a frame of white tubing, which was fed by the restaurant’s water supply. With the help of the spigots and a group of volunteers, the process was ‘Taylorized’ just enough to make their ambitious goal of filling 100,000 water balloons practical.

Water balloon filling contraption with spigot, tap and plastic tubing

Filling water balloons

Like countless water balloons before them, these had a specific target: participants of The Great American Water Balloon Fight. This is exactly what it sounds like. It is also the annual fundraiser of Team Tassy, a nonprofit seeking to eliminate global poverty, starting in Haiti.

The idea was born last April, at Alma, a popular Regent Square restaurant. “We were literally sitting around, drinking beers,” recounted Ian Rosenberger, Team Tassy founder and board president. He spoke with the rhythm of a practiced storyteller “… we were looking at each other and we were like, what is the funnest thing we can think of that we did when we were kids—”

On the origins of the event, Jenna Knapp, Event Co-Chair, added: “We needed an annual fundraiser, something that you want to do—not just because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t. It’s a blast.”

Rosenberger explained. “Giving is so often attached to guilt, and it doesn’t do anybody any favors, including our families. They don’t want our pity; they want our energy.”

“One of our core philosophies is that giving should be a joy,” added Executive Director Vivien Luk. “And we wanted it to be inclusive, since we believe that anyone can unleash their inherent power to fight poverty, and…” echoing Rosenberger, who had disappeared inside the restaurant for a hot dog, “it’s fun.”

Viven Luk of Team Tassy Great American Water Balloon filling party at Station Street Hot Dogs Vivien Luk of Team Tassy at the Great American Water Balloon filling party last Saturday

Now in its second year, the “fight” is an annual Pittsburgh event. The upcoming fight, which will take place at the Highmark Stadium in Station Square, is scheduled for Saturday, July 13. The Team also anticipates adding additional cities in coming years. Calgary and Denver are possibilities. Like everything Team Tassy does, this event started local but harbors not-so-secret ambitions for expansion.

Water balloons in a U-haul van Filled water balloons are counted and bagged, then transported to a warehouse for safekeeping before the fight.

Water balloons accumulate in a warehouse Filled water balloons accumulate in the warehouse.

Janet Duzicky, who had been tallying filled balloons, sat down at one of the tables in the shade. Duzicky—known as “Aunt Janet” because she is, in her words, “Ian’s Aunt for real, and everybody’s aunt, almost for real”—had attended and volunteered at last year’s fight. She explained the mechanics of the play: first, the balloons were delivered in two semi-trucks. The field was divided into four quadrants, one per team. Each was identified by colored T-shirts and had its own team captains from local radio stations and staff participants. The field divisions were marked with banks of water balloons, and so could be crossed only with great difficulty and at great personal peril. Last year, during the fight, daisy-chains were spontaneously formed to transfer balloons from person to person, maximizing efficiency and impact. About 700 participants fought, unloading about 100,000 water balloons. The entire play lasted about 25 minutes, which, for a balloon fight is actually quite long.

Duziscky said, “It brings out the kid in everybody.”

Knapp added, “It was like mayhem.”

“People were really into it. I mean, everybody,”Duziscky filled in the details. “Even people who were on the sidelines. When it started, I went and collected money on the outskirts, and almost all the people who were there said, ‘We will be here next year!’ And that surprised me—how into it everybody was.”

Consistent with the rest of the event, their contingency for bad weather was simple and ambitious. “We fight."

Join the next filling party at Double Wide Grill on Thursday, July 11, from 5:30 to 8:30pm. Learn more about the Great American Water Balloon Fight and keep up with Team Tassy online here. Station Street Hot Dogs is located at  6290 Broad Street in East Liberty.