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Southside Park water fight canceled, event finds new venue

More than 700 people planning to play with squirt guns in Southside Park Saturday were left high and dry when the event was cancelled by park rangers due to the lack of an event permit, prompting event organizers to reschedule and relocate the water fight to a larger, more remote area that doesn’t require permits.

“Predictably, some parks neighbors got word and complained, and cops and park rangers decided 600 people was too big for that park, and worst of all, no permit,” event organizer Stephanie Rector said on her Facebook page after the cancellation.

The water fight had been advertised on Facebook for weeks leading up to the event scheduled to take over Southside Park at 2 p.m. Saturday. But authorities put a stop to the event before it could get started because there were no event permit – a requirement for large gatherings in city parks.

The cancellation came as a surprise to event-goers who arrived to find park rangers turning people away, but it didn’t dampen the spirit of organizers who said they would reschedule and relocate the event.

“I know you guys are bummed about the cops, but let’s be grateful we got the heads up on the new permit free place,” Rector said.

In the wake of the recent Rafting Gone Wild event on the American River that devolved into a riverbank brawl and arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct – and prompted county supervisors to bulk up a standing alcohol restrictions on the river – public safety officers have been on heightened alert for large gatherings that could quickly get out of control.

Saturday’s planned water fight was designed to be a family-friendly event, however, not centered on alcohol consumption as the Rafting Gone WIld event was, according to the Facebook invitation.

“I saw the Park Rangers when I rolled in and thought this can’t be good, but I figured they were just here for protection because there were gonna be a lot of people and that can cause fights, but usually alcohol is involved and there wasn’t supposed to be any drinking,” Ray Conrado told Fox 40 news Saturday.

The “rules of the game” listed in the Facebook event announcement included keeping an eye out for younger players and sticking around afterward to help clean up.

“The park is home to ducks and small children who play here so lets make sure we take care of any choking hazards and litter,” the announcement stated.

After being turned away at Southside Park Saturday, event organizers decided to move the event to the Sacramento Bypass Wildlife Area in Lovedel, about three miles east of Davis off I-80.

The area is is a large public/private restoration project, according to sacramentoriver.org, and it is open to the public seven days a week with no fee for day use.

Rector said the new location was selected on the advice of park rangers who closed down Saturday’s event.

“One of them said the Sacramento Bypass because it is not a city park or state park, from what I understand, and sounds like it could handle the capacity more,” Rector wrote on her Facebook page.

Rector said that one of the problems the park rangers mentioned was a concern about water balloons and litter – it was also a concern Southside Park residents mentioned in a call to event-goers to join a pre-event park clean up event.

“I think if we officially say ‘no balloons’ (we can’t prevent a few from being brought, but make it our official stance), we will have less trash, clean up to do, help avoid liability and help keep outside citizens from being as concerned and thus less likely to have this one shutdown,” Rector said.

The water fight has been rescheduled to 2 p.m. Sept. 8. More information is on the Sacramento Water Fight event Facebook page.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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