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War, Nerf style, has been declared

Around 36 high school students are still “alive” in the Nerf War but about 165 signed up to participate in the student-arranged game. Some of the participants are shown together at the high school -- neutral ground for the combatants: Karly Murphy, Ace Sauerwein, Jackson Vanderwagen, Dillon Owen, Sam Purfeerst, Reed Blasius, Chris Morgan and Logan Johnson.

On a recent afternoon a teenage student could be seen running down the sidewalk on Cemetery Road, near the high school, carrying a small, neon-colored Nerf Gun and looking over his shoulder as if pursued by enemies.

Similar sights have shot up around town the past few weeks, often confusing bystanders, according to high school students Karly Murphy and Ace Sauerwein.

“There’s been weird looks, like, ‘Why is that high schooler carrying a Nerf gun?’” Sauerwein said.

The reason why so many high schoolers are carrying Nerf guns around River Falls is because they’ve gone to war -- a “Nerf War” game started by Murphy. Sauerwein began helping her manage the game soon after it began.

About 165 students first signed to join the “Nerf War” in teams of five. Each team has to “kill” at least one other participating person per week, by shooting them with a Nerf dart.

Any direct hit counts as a “kill.” Teams that don’t get at least one “kill” each week are eliminated. The last person “alive” at the end of the war wins for their team.

“I was killed last week so I’ve been out for like a week now,” Sauerwein said last week, “but the first week was awesome. Like we went on missions and stuff, and it's been a good time so far and I think a lot of people are enjoying it.”

While participants are mostly high school students, the Nerf War is not a school-sanctioned activity.

However, Sauerwein said he and Murphy did get advice on safety from High School Principal Kit Leudtke.

Leudtke himself said the school’s main concern is student safety.

"We hope that students first and foremost are safe in their decisions and also behave respectfully and appropriately in the community while playing Nerf wars," Leudtke said.

To that end, Sauerwein and Murphy established several rules that they posted on the Nerf War Twitter Page -- @RFNerfWar.

These include restrictions about where participants can be “killed” -- for example, school, church, and places of work are out-of-bounds. Breaking into peoples’ homes is also not allowed. However, one can be invited into a home. Sauerwein said he’s also reminded Nerf War participants to follow their common sense.

“Don't be driving and shooting out the window, something that would interfere with like the authorities,” Sauerwein said.

“I feel like the kids that are in (the Nerf War) are being responsible,” Murphy said.

She and Sauerwein did say that police were called only once for an incident involving the Nerf War.

Police Chief Roger Leque said the incident happened at 6:52 p.m. May 2. Police were called for a complaint of erratic driving apparently related to the Nerf War. Leque said officers dealt with the peole involved and no citations were issued.

Whenever a Nerf War participant makes a kill, they tweet a picture of themselves with the person they killed to the Nerf War Twitter account, and include their names, and team names. A spreadsheet attached to the Twitter page keeps track of who is dead and who is still alive.

Each person pays $5 to play in the Nerf War. The last person alive will win that money for their team.

“Which ends up being only $28 per person or something like that,” Sauerwein said, “But still nice for playing Nerf Wars.”

For more on this story, please see the May 22 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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