SPARTA, NJ – Every May, approximately  150 Sparta High School seniors prepare for Water Wars:  an annual tradition where seniors fight to be the Water Wars champion and take home the cash prize of nearly one thousand dollars.

Many locals have always wondered how the “war” is played. Long story short, the “war” requires teams of two people (five dollars a head) who are essentially sent out on a quest to shoot other teams with water guns in order to eliminate them, move onto the next round, and hopefully become a thousand dollars richer.

This year, the  “war” was organized by senior Tiffany Zielenski. Tiffany is in charge of rules, teams, targets, and all things Water Wars related. She used a Facebook page shared with all participants to manage the event: posting contestants, pictures, rules, and winners.

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Besides the simple theory behind the game, the rules of the game become fairly complicated and include many “safe zones” such as school, work, church, and the home. However, many intricate loopholes are involved like the rule that states, “If a family member invites you into your target’s home, you are free to shoot your target and get him/her out”.

The long list of rules goes on:

If you get someone out, you MUST post a picture of him/her to the Facebook page.

If you find the people who are after you, you are allowed to spray/ “stun” them. They will not be able to participate in the war for 24 hours. A picture must be posted to the page.

  • Only store bought guns are allowed. No water balloons, hoses, buckets, etc.
  • You are allowed to shoot someone in his/her car.
  • If you go on vacation for 6 days, you and your partner are disqualified and the other team is not.
  • Water Wars will be discontinued for prom weekend and will resume on June 8th.
  • Siblings cannot allow someone into their home to get the other sibling.
  • Shields are allowed to be used, but rain gear (jackets and boots) do not count.
  • Once a team gets everyone they are assigned to, they will not get another target until the week ends.
  • Safe places include school, during work hours, church, home, or during any sport.
  • If one member in your team gets out, your team is still in. The other member has a chance to get the team they are assigned before the week ends. If not, your team is disqualified.

Most participants and spectators love the idea and Sparta High School english teacher Jamie Barker says, “I want to play myself.”

Sparta senior Tyler Holowach seemed to really enjoy his experience before being eliminated: “Water wars was an incredible experience. The adrenaline I got from high speed car chases to sleepless nights makes water wars a thrilling adventure.”

When asked just how intense the war can get, a senior, who asked to remain unnamed, recalled her heartbreaking story as she told us, “I followed my target to Philadelphia for the weekend - you know, to really surprise her. But when I got there, it turns out someone else followed me to Phili and got me out! I was so upset!.”

While not every Water Wars story is quite this extreme, some have become prone to trust issues as Tom Lynch puts it, “you can’t trust anyone.. but that’s what makes it so much fun”.

While many seniors, parents, and teachers see Water Wars as a harmless and fun way to end the last year of high school, some see it as a potential threat to safety and academic performance. SHS Vice Principal Janet Ferraro has had problems with students bringing water guns into the school before. Not only that, but some have reported a drop in his/her grades due to some distractions.  

Aside from academic performance, there have been reports of noise complaints late at night, driving violations, and even issues with personal privacy.

Although there are mixed emotions about Water Wars from all involved, most, like Brittany Rivera, think, “It was a good way to know about my classmates” and Water Wars is a tradition that is sure to stick around for a long time. As of now, current juniors cannot wait for next May.

UPDATE: This year's Water Wars winners inclue: 

  • Julia Silvestri and Taryn Penna,
  • Tom Krajick and Joey Earl,
  • Delayne Zanakas and Sarah Jessica Harris
  • Dillon Youngclause and Chris Frignoca.