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Water Balloon Festival a day of wet, wonderful fun and fellowship
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Lenerd Paz, center, slides down an inflatable slide during the water balloon festival Saturday, July 14, 2018, at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier in Gainesville. Basan Ministries, based in Cleveland, holds the festival to bring together members of the community. - photo by David Barnes

Despite a little rain, volunteers and attendees of the second annual Water Balloon Festival at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier were all smiles on Saturday, July 14. After all, they came to get wet anyway.

Hosted by Basan Ministries of Cleveland, the goal of an afternoon of water-filled fun was to simply bring people of Gainesville together.

“When I first came up with the idea, my wife and I were just sort of joking around and decided ‘let’s actually do this,’” said Newlin Vargas, event organizer and pastor of Basan Ministries. “With the help of the church, we all came together to make it a community event and last year we held it on the square. About 200 people showed up.”

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Participants grab balloons during a water balloon fight during the water balloon festival Saturday, July 14, 2018, at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier in Gainesville. Basan Ministries, based in Cleveland, holds the festival to bring together members of the community. - photo by David Barnes
Vargas explained that his eventual goal for the event is to shut down the city at night for a glow-in-the-dark water balloon festival.

“My wife and I have a very large family, so for these events, we try to keep the cost free to the public. All people have to do is sign a waiver and that’s it. Last year we even gave out free book bags and school supplies,” he said.

“We just want people put down their phones for a while, get out of the house, and really connect with other people in the community.”

Saturday’s activities included bubble soccer, wooden crafts supplied by Home Depot, The Love Truck with music and live performances, inflatables and lots and lots of water balloons.

Kervens Augustin of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier said the clubs are excited to partner with Basan Ministries for the event.

“Newlin approached us and we thought it would be a lot of fun,” he said. “So many people think that church means just a service, but it’s not like that. By doing something like this that gets the community involved, we are able to show love through action.”

Tricia Desir and her husband Ken brought their daughters Mady and Gigi to the festival for a fun afternoon outing.

“We thought it would be something fun for the kids to do,” said Tricia while helping her daughters with the Home Depot crafts. “We also came out in support of Basan Ministries, my friend’s church.”

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Basan Ministries member Sergio Sierra, right, helps Gainesville resident Erik Rodriguez climb into a bubble soccer ball during the water balloon festival Saturday, July 14, 2018, at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier in Gainesville. Basan Ministries, based in Cleveland, holds the festival to bring together members of the community. - photo by David Barnes
The ministry has been around for a little over two years, and Nell Vargas has been there since the very beginning.

“I helped out last year at the water balloon festival as a referee. I’m helping with something else this year, but it’s still just as fun,” he said. “I was drawn to Basan because, while it is a church, it’s not a church for the Christian. It’s for everyone.

“Being able to put on an event like this for the community as a church is so refreshing, because it’s not like any other church event. It’s wonderful to be a part of.”

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