Dave Becker has become as important to the annual Fox Lake Firemen's Festival water fights as the H2O flowing through the hoses.
Becker has been the water fights' announcer for more than 20 years. He was back at it Sunday, doing everything from calling the teams to the water fights court to dropping in plugs for a ham raffle or Italian sausage for sale.
In the festival's 52 years, Becker is just one of two announcers to work the water fights. He gets a good view of the action from a stage at the end of the court behind the Fox Lake Volunteer Fire Department's station in unincorporated Ingleside.
"One of the big things is if I see somebody throwing a nozzle down - those nozzles are $300, $400 each - I'll kind of yell at them," said Becker, 54, the village of Fox Lake's fire marshal.
Sunday's action featured 18 women's teams and 19 men's teams. For a $25 entry fee, five-member squads used two fire hoses with 60 pounds of pressure each in an effort to push an empty beer half-barrel across an opponent's end line.
Guard rails are on each side of the court, and the play is comprised of 2-minute heats for a best-of-three series. If a participant is hit by the barrel, the other team wins the heat.
Becker said many in the old guard have stepped aside for younger players. He recalled seeing some fierce action in his 20-plus years on the stage as announcer.
"When we used to have some of these teams like (Fox Lake's) Grossman Plumbing ... these guys used to fight until the time ran out in the two-minute heats. They were good," said Becker, 54.
Trophies are awarded to the top four finishers in the water fights. A "horse's petute" trophy is presented to the worst squad.
Fox Lake Fire Chief Ron Hoehne said at least 1,000 people attended Sunday's water fights. Proceeds go to the volunteer fire department to help pay for new equipment and training.
Unseasonably cold temperatures and gray skies were present for the closing day of last year's event. In Sunday's sweltering heat, Lake Villa firefighters who served as officials for the water fights occasionally turned the hoses toward the crowd to provide welcome relief.