ASHEVILLE - It was Braveheart meets dodgeball Friday night at the Bywater bar on the French Broad River.
With Piper Jones on bagpipes in the background, two giddy, dripping teams launched some 4,000 biodegradable water balloons at each other in the sprawling yard of the riverside bar.
The second annual Battle of the Bywater drew a few hundred people to the unique city watering hole.
All in all, the frenzied hurling of bright blue and orange balloons lasted all of 10 minutes. (Last year, with only 2,000 balloons, it lasted seven.)
"There's no prize - just bragging rights," said Bywater co-owner Chad Battles, whose main job was judging which team got the least soaked. Battles said he and his business partner James Rogers had been brainstorming a way to kick off the summer solstice since long before they opened the Bywater in fall 2010.
They named the event after the final battle in the J.R.R. Tolkien novel "Lord of the Rings."
"We're a little bit geeky sci-fantasy folks," Battles said.
To build suspense during their epic, Braveheart-style onslaught, the bar owners set off smoke bombs in the middle of the balloon fight and had bagpiper E.J. Jones (stage name Piper) and a drummer playing battle tunes. The Bywater's acre of property, at 796 Riverside Drive, was decorated Friday night with Scottish and other flags.
"It's aquatic mayhem," said 42-year-old Kelly Sparks, whose team won the event last year. "It's amazing. It's total saturation."
Her friend, 35-year-old ceramic artist Kara Stamm, was a first-timer at the event. She'd been grumpy all day, she said. The water balloon fight, she said, was a "good aggression reliever."
The two, whose team won this year's battle, got soaked from head to toe.
During the day, Battles said he and eight regular customers (plus some kids who just wanted to play with the hose), helped fill the 4,000 balloons. The balloons are "turtle-friendly" and biodegradable, meaning they won't harm animals, even if they drifted into the nearby French Broad, he said. With food from Gypsy Queen food truck, tunes by South Carolina punk rocker Danielle Howle and a crowd of revelers, some in kilts, it was an artsy, only-in-Asheville, eco-friendly fight.
"What better way to kick off the summer solstice?" Battles said.
Indeed. Unless you had any plans to start summer in dry clothes.