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New London - As 100 people huddled around him on a ball field at Bates Woods Park Sunday, Frank Colmenares attempted to go over the rules of the game.
Only water allowed in water guns.
No physical contact.
But the 20-year-old Colmenares, the event coordinator, was quickly overpowered by the teenager still in him - the one who had fought some mighty neighborhood water-gun battles in his youth with his trusty Super Soaker 2500.
"H2O, baby!" Colmenares yelled, plugging his team. "H2O!"
And with that, the New London Water Fight was on.
Water not coming down as rain shot out of water guns of every model and size. There were children in the midst, and grown-ups acting like children in teams with names like ABW (All 'Bout Water), Team Hydro, Team Drench and Splash Money Records.
Khaleed Fields, 16, ran out of the ball field to the back of his mother's Jeep Grand Cherokee to switch guns. Connie Fields had come armed with 100 water balloons in a cooler, a half-dozen water guns and six jugs of water for speedy refills.
Sunday's event was organized in response to a July 15 incident in which four adults and several juveniles were arrested in connection with a water-gun fight that had gotten out of hand in the Truman-Hempstead street area.
Intent on altering an image of New London teenagers getting into constant trouble, Colmenares and New London police officer Anthony Nolan worked together to organize a sanctioned, kid-friendly water-gun fight.
"It's going to shut up a lot of naysayers," Nolan said.
The July 15 incident stemmed from an informal water-gun league that had cropped up in New London this summer and is taking place daily on the streets, said 23-year-old Michael Corte. Sunday's event was different from league battles, which is for older kids, because it was open to all ages, he said.
"It kind of brings the child out of everybody," Cortez said of water-gun fights.
Dressed for battle
The majority of the participants Sunday came ready for the fight; water guns poked out of backpacks, and some carried water balloons to enhance their attacks. For those who showed up unarmed, there were about 60 or so guns that Board of Education member Susan Connolly and Nolan had purchased.
Some, like schools Superintendent Nicholas Fischer, came dressed for battle but ultimately hung back to watch from a distance.
The event was by all accounts successful even before the actual water-gun fight actually began. Nicole Arias, 17, said she decided to participate because the event - promoted on Facebook with 181 "friends" as of Sunday evening - had helped bring the community together.
"This stopped like all the problems and the cliques that were formed," said Arias, a student at the Science and Technology Magnet High School. "It just shows people that ... we can still have fun without getting in trouble. And how much fun New London is."
Staying out of trouble
Isaiah Dixon, a 2009 graduate of New London High School, agreed.
"We don't usually have things like this in New London, so it's good to have it," said Dixon. "Things like this are what keep people out of trouble."
Volunteers brought a wide array of food and drinks while Nolan rented a giant water-obstacle course, a water-dunking tank and a grill. Colmenares and friends pitched in for a disc jockey.
Trophies for winners
Nolan would not disclose the cost of renting the equipment but said he hoped to purchase a water-obstacle course so that he could start a series of summer events for New London's youth.
He even ordered two trophies with plaques that read "2010 NL Fun Day Champions" that will be passed on from event champion to event champion.
"It's like a grand opening to us having more, or similar, things like this," Nolan said.
Rhonda Exum-Santos brought her five children down from Norwich for the event. A former New London resident, she said she was happy to see the city offer an event with such great participation.
"These kids are good kids," Exum-Santos said. "Good kids come up with the idea to shoot each other with water guns. We need more things like this in all the surrounding towns."