Virginia state law bans water balloons from Pirate Days at Smith Mountain Lake

Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 4:49 PM EDT
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SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Pirate Days has become a tradition at Smith Mountain Lake, with buccaneers of all ages taking part in a number of family-friendly activities, including water battles between boats.

“It’s like, a chance for adults and kids to play the same,” says Crazy Horse Marina manager Chris Bechtler.

Pirates are not inherently known for being the most law-abiding of scallywags, but this weekend at the lake, a new code will be enforced.

“Not trying to ruin anybody’s good time but we are going to ensure that everybody is following the rules,” explains Sgt. Tim Dooley of the Virginia Conservation Police. Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation making it illegal to release certain kinds of balloons into the environment. This means that swashbucklers this weekend may be setting sail into ‘water battle’ with their weapon of choice on shore.

“Our goal is always to take the most obtrusive method possible to make people follow the law,” Sgt. Dooley adds. “We have some options available which are educate, let people know that there has been a change to the code section and hopefully that will change the code section. We do have the option if needed to give an official warning or summons.”

The code says anyone releasing a non-biodegradable balloon will be subject to a civil penalty- a hit to your booty.

“The person would be looking at a $25 fine for every balloon they released,” Sgt. Dooley says.

Those younger than 16? That penalty will fall on the parent.

“We as Pirate Days and Crazy Horse Marina do discourage the use of water balloons. I’ve seen a lot of bruises and a lot of injuries from them also,” notes Bechtler.

Crazy Horse Marina is one location where a water fight will happen. Bechtler notes there are other ways buccaneers can defend their ships during the family-friendly weekend.

“We use super soakers and pumps. We have a low pressure, high volume pump on our boat.”

Sgt. Dooley says abiding by the rule is helpful to the environment. “We just ask that you help us protect our natural resources by not using these balloons, because they do leave the debris behind and fish and wildlife can consume that and cause some issues. We just ask that you use other means. Water guns are great, water cannons are great. Anything but the balloons.”

The playful pillaging takes place July 15-17 at Smith Mountain Lake.

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