Wet meets wild at Rice's epic water balloon fight: It's Harry Potter with soakers & chuggers
You know it's a special day when being awoken at 6 a.m. to the blaring sounds of bagpipes doesn't even bother you. The bagpipes are just a recording, at least, and the early wake up is a prank, retribution for the time we locked up a room controlling 3-foot speakers and blared "MMMBop" on repeat.
It's all part of Beer Bike, the Saturday that Rice University students put aside everything else (studying, relationships, sanity) in a tri-level ode to their own glorious weirdness. The official beer bike festivities are a race between the 11 residential colleges (think Harry Potter) as they field teams of chuggers and bikers who take turns completing their individual tasks (chugging a beer or biking a lap).
But in addition to the pranks and an early morning filled with boozing, dancing and general collegiate awesomeness, since the early 1990s the highlight of the day is the parade. That's when each college loads up two trucks along Rice's inner loop and hordes of students hurl tens of thousands of water balloons in what's unofficially thought of as the world's largest water balloon fight.
For a week preceding, guys and girls sit outside and fill the fist-sized balloons with water using German precision. Each college fills up to a dozen giant plastic garbage bins with the bouncy projectiles, totaling between 10,000 and 20,000 balloons. (If these estimates are correct, the average beer bike parade tosses about 165,000 balloons, more than the 150,000 balloon fight recognized by Guinness as the world's largest.)
The half-hour parade crawls along at a snail's pace as students engage in epic warfare. Most start out throwing indiscriminately at anyone in a different colored shirt, but after a while the brave load themselves up with balloons cradled in their wet shirts and weave through the different colleges, searching out friends to soak.
Whether drunk of sober (and with the lax alcohol policy under review, bet on more of the latter in the future), more students participate in the water balloon fight/parade than any other part of the day.
It's ridiculous. It's messy. But it's also an amazing life experience that you can't find anywhere else. It's hard not to love.