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Matt Gohlke / Pools

Inventive games can liven up a pool party

With the Fourth of July falling on a Wednesday this year, you may see a wide range of dates for Independence Day pool parties. Some people are selecting this weekend to celebrate, some prefer the actual holiday in the middle of the week, while others are opting for the weekend after.

No matter which date you celebrate, pool games and activities can really add to the party. Following are some pool games and activities that will ensure that your Independence Day pool party will be one to be remembered.

•  Marco Polo — An oldie, but a goodie! But just in case you forgot how to play it, here are the rules: Choose someone to be “it.” She must close her eyes and try and tag the other players. Whenever she calls out “Marco,” the players must answer “Polo.” If the person who is “it” tags a player, then that player becomes “it.”

In one variation, players can get in and out of the pool. However, the person who is “it” can call out, “Fish out of water!” and if there is a player out of the pool, he or she becomes “it.”

•  Relay races — Use red, white and blue plastic streamers to separate swimming lanes. There are many type of relay races — swimming backwards, riding a pool noodle, etc. One you might not be familiar with is the watermelon push relay — players must push a watermelon from one end of the pool to the other without touching the bottom of the pool with their feet.

•  Noodle jousting — Select two players to sit on an inflatable raft in the middle of the pool. Give each one a pool noodle and have them joust until one of them falls or gets off the raft.

•  Dive games — Dive rings and sticks are available at most pool supply stores.

•  Chicken fights — Most of us have participated in chicken fights, but try chicken fight tag or chicken fight races (from one end of the pool to another).

•  Sharks and minnows — This game is good for a large group. One person is the “shark” and starts in the middle of the pool. All other players are “minnows” and start out of the water on one side of the deck. The shark yells out, “Minnow!” and the minnows must jump in and try to swim to the other side of the pool without being tagged by the shark. The minnows that get tagged become sharks, and the game is replayed until only one minnow remains. That person starts the new round as the shark.

•  Inner tube race — This is fairly self-explanatory. Each participant sits in an inner tube at one end of the pool; someone says “go” and the participants race to the other end.

•  Scuba relay — Gather two sets of scuba gear (flippers, snorkel and mask) and form two teams. At the word “go,” the first player on each team puts on her team’s gear, jumps into the pool, swims to the other side and back, gets out of the water, and removes the gear. Then the next player does the same. The first team to finish wins. This game can also be done with T-shirts, shorts and socks.

•  Frozen T-shirt contest — This is a really entertaining game. Before the party, thoroughly soak two shirts, then freeze them in plastic zip-top bags. During the party, get the shirts out and divide the attendees into two groups. Each group is racing to thaw and put on the shirt. You can use anything in the yard to thaw it: hose, pool, hands, etc. Every 15 seconds, teams must switch the person thawing the shirt. The first team to thaw it and puts it on one of their teammates wins.

•  Water volleyball — Volleyball equipment is available at most pool supply stores. Some pool owners purchase a regulation net and anchor it to fence posts or trees, allowing the net to cross over the pool. Either way, it is a great game for larger groups.

•  Water basketball — Basketball goals are available at most pool supply stores. This game is better for small groups. This is by far the most popular water event at the Gohlke house.

•  Water baseball — Typically, it is played in the shallow end of the pool with bases about 10 to 15 feet apart, and a ball hit out of the far end of the pool is a home run.

While enjoying your pool party games and activities, remember that pool safety should always be a concern. Many drownings and accidents occur during parties. Children are often ignored while parents socialize.

It might be a good idea to either hire a lifeguard or have parents take shifts being the pool monitor —even provide a whistle and a list of pool rules if you feel it is necessary.

Have a great and safe celebration!

MATT GOHLKE, certified building professional, is the owner of Gohlke Pools and a member of the National Spa & Pool Institute, Aquatech and the Better Business Bureau. His firm has received national awards, certifications and recognitions in the swimming pool industry. He may be reached at 940-387-7521.