Who Started the First OB Marshmallow Fight?

by on July 4, 2009 · 32 comments

in History, Ocean Beach, Popular

Originally posted July 4, 2009

See this post here for origins of OB Marshmallow Fight.

Most locals know about the famous OB Marshmallow Fight that happens after the fireworks each July 4th right at the beach.  Two great throngs gather and begin pelting each other with the mushy white gobs. This goes on, with each side advancing or retreating until enough people tire and the event melts away like the last fireworks.

After a couple pitches onto the beach, the typical marshmallow, unlike the stone that gathers no moss, gathers several layers of sand which makes it quite a formidable weapon.

Who did start the first OB marshmallow fight?

I posed that question to long-time resident Rich Grosch recently. In an email, he responded:

Actually, the first marshmallow fight started with Michael Stewart and Tom Zounes 4th of July party on the beach at the foot of Muir Street.

Then escalated to a fight between the blocks of 4900 Saratoga and 4900 Muir.

My annual Fourth of July party kinda perpetuated it and then of course, it took on a life of its own.

Rich said there was a nice article the Beacon did on it but after going to that news services’ archives, I could not find anything.

What years are we talking about?

UPDATED! Video from 2009 OB marshamallow fight courtesy of Sunshine!

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Patty Jones July 4, 2009 at 11:34 am

I actually experienced my first marshmallow fight in 2007. I had never even heard about it before then. What a trip… flaming marshmallows flying through the air. I hafta say I was glad I didn’t get nailed with one!


avatar bodysurferbob July 4, 2009 at 11:51 am

Patty, they are a trip! And loads of fun, as one’s aggressive tendencies can be relieved through the (usual) harmless play-war. I think it’s mostly guys who get involved, although women are right in the thick of it. A friend of mine, Kevin, one year actually got hit in the eye, and had to go to see a doctor. I took him back there to the marshmallow scene several years ago, and wouldn’t you know it, he got hit in the eye again. True story for all your landlovers.

Is it true that the cops broke up the 2008 fight? Anyone know?


avatar Sunshine July 4, 2009 at 11:39 pm

What an awesome way to celebrate the 4th of July in OB !!! We just returned home from a totally fun night on the beach where we watched the fireworks with mild to wild ooohs and aaaahs, then chucked marshmallows at anyone within range over the massively roaring fire pit (great job fire builders!)

For a gal, I took getting hit in the eye all in stride and kept on chucking the increasingly-sand-filled mallows back at anyone and everyone across the pit.

Posted our video to YouTube now….check it out. “OB Marshmallow Fight July 09” (okay, so I don’t know how to post the link….)

OB rocks!

EDITOR: Hey Sunshine! Thanks for the link, we updated the video above with the one you linked to.


avatar Dave Sparling July 5, 2009 at 10:38 am

Somehow I think the the OB Marshmallow Fight BEFORE the invasion of the Carrie Nation driven COPS, CLEANSING the beautiful beach of ALCOHOL, was akin to the old Christmas KAZOO marching band back when they imbibed while MARCHING.


avatar ClubStyle_DJ July 5, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I was so excited about close up fireworks right on the beach when I got here in 2007. (well late 2006) anyway in Cleveland the closest you could get was about 5 football fields to 1/2 mile away so it was exciting seeing them explode over head. I knew no one here and had no idea what was to come afterwards. I befriended some neighbors and sat by their popup tent on my official indian blanket I bought on the way here from cleve. As I rolled up my blanket something wizzed past my ear..I was like WTF (full of cleveland attitude) I turned and got pelted by about 10 a once … after I realized what was going on…IT WAS ON!
I mean it was like a snowball fight without the coat and mittens.
My welcome to OB was christen by the marshmellow war and I loved it.
Thanks OB you’ve got a resident and fan for life.

(next year I’m designing a little shield with a coat of arms…lol)



avatar jim g July 11, 2009 at 10:40 am

I talked to a long time Obecian he told me the OB Spaceman started it. Spaceman laid out flaming marshmellows to say O B 92107 in hopes the Mother ship would see it and land in the pier parking lot…..A bunch of young kids got pissed off he was taking up parking and started throwing flaming mellows at him calling him a crazy old F…well the crazy old F did not give up so easy and fired the flaming treats back at the young guys………Thats my story and I’m ” sticking” to it !!!


avatar annagrace July 11, 2009 at 11:35 am

Just one more reason for Mike James ( c’mon Mike) to write an article about the OB Spaceman.


avatar bodysurferbob July 11, 2009 at 3:18 pm

jim g – either they or you – or both – were smokin’ some strong stuff, bro.


avatar emw July 11, 2009 at 3:59 pm

i could swear my sister Linda wrote a book after interviewing Spaceman, but I’ll be damned if I can find any evidence of it. I’ll ask her what she knows and see if i can track down a copy.

My uncle Tim got a number from Spaceman!



avatar Mike James July 12, 2009 at 7:06 am

Anna, I’m no Spaceman expert, but I did write a story on my close encounters with Clint. As far as the story of the flaming marshmallows hailing the mothership, I think I like it better than the real story.


avatar Mike James July 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm

3 years later still a great story.
A follow-up on the Spaceman.
I put together a website for the Spaceman of Ocean Beach for my buddy, the foremost expert on the Spaceman, Rick Bolinger.

The site has some great audio that Rick obtained from Spaceman’s friend, longtime OBciean and jazzman, the late Bob Oaks.

http://www.spacemanofoceanbeach.com or the Facebook site http://www.facebook.com/spacemanofoceanbeach

As far as the start of the Marshmallow fights I have to agree with Rich Grosch. Mike Stewart and Tom Zounes were the instigators. I think that the local Boy Scouts were involved as both Michael and Tom were in the local troop.


avatar Frank Gormlie July 12, 2009 at 10:55 am

I knew Spaceman as a teenager here in OB. I got a number – XIb/20 I think. So I was ready to be saved when, not if, the aliens landed. Who wouldn’t be ready to leave this screwed-up country that was ours in the late fifties and early sixties. There was so much hypocrisy around and Spaceman called people on it.

I remember this one surfing contest at south OB, with bleachers and announcers. Spaceman arrived with a huge fog horn, and kept blowing it.

Often, dozens of kids would follow him as he traipsed across the beach, and unfortunately not all of them being respectful.

When I was in my late teens, Spaceman bought me a six-pack so I could go to the County Fair.

Later in the Seventies when I was a hippie, I ran into Clinton – and I was so happy to see him – he handed me a painting of his – “Space Tree” – an image that can only be fully appreciated under a black light. I still have it.

He had some terrific highs and lows. He was selling paintings in Hawaii at one point for $1,000s. Spaceman will always be remembered for being one of OB’s originals.


avatar Sunshine July 13, 2009 at 6:33 am

Woo Hoo! Thanx Editor, for posting the OB Marshmallow Fight July 09 video here. I’m glad someone knows how to do that. One of these days I’ve just got to ask my teenaged son to teach me how. These young kids know how to do everything on the computer.

Yeah, I know…I’m from the days of manual typewriters that you rolled the paper into and letters written with paper and a number two pencil and, dare I say it, put into a mailbox. Anyone remember having to use an exacto knife to scrape a mistake off a typewritten letter? As for posting (or should I say embedding???) a video to a blog? Haven’t a clue. lol.

Next year, I plan to wear a snorkle mask to the Marshmallow Fight. The shot to my left eyebrow did sting for a few minutes yet it was all in good fun and luckily it wasn’t flaming!

As for Spaceman…I didn’t have the pleasure of ever meeting him personally, yet on certain seriously dark and mysterious evenings if you look up into the night sky over the ocean with your head tilted a little to the left, lifting one arm above your head, and one leg bent halfway backward into the air just so, you can see him in the distant galaxies…..And that’s my story and I’m stickin to it!


avatar jim g July 13, 2009 at 7:50 am

Friday night at the Masonic Center Steve Phillips and the Pescadero Pickers will be playing along with a lot of other bands. They play a tribute to the Spaceman ( Ballad of the OB Spaceman)the same song they played on live ( as opposed to dead) TV Saturday morning on KUSI…..This is the release for the OB CD WAVES the Sound of Ocean Beach 92107……addmissin free …food n drinks will be avalible…..Hodads food Pizza Port beer……..

Far as the MM fight……I noticed MM debris over 125 ‘ from the Veterans Rock up Newport. While fun is fun that crap is all over our sidewalks….why not ask for all those who had SO much fun to help clean it up?? Go walk to the seawall and flag poles and see what I mean. Take a pocket knife scrape a little see for yourself. It’s a mess. While I am not a ” neat freak” or a Felix Unger type the MM are very unslightly. You can go to the wall watch a beautiful sunset BUT you can’t leave cause your feet stick to the sidewalk !!!!


avatar Dave Gilbert July 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm

You guys really need to check out Veterans Rock, Jim G. isn’t exaggerating, it’s a freaking mess down there and I think I’m pretty “live and let live” when it comes to turning the other cheek.

They just steam cleaned that entire area a mere few weeks ago and it looked pristine and now it’s awful. So, imho unless you voted #3 on the “Do you think the annual 4th of July Marshmallow Fight should be ended?” side bar, I sincerely think you need to go down there and start cleaning up all of that innocent fun that’s making a tribute to our fallen fighting men & women a disgrace and more than half the sidewalk to the lifeguard tower a sticky, ugly mess.


avatar Dan July 21, 2009 at 7:08 am

I lived in OB for many years, now I’m a New Yorker…Yes OB is better…I spent the 4th with great friends at the OB motel…I have never seen this, when did it start? It was wonderful, one of the highlights of my trip…


avatar dave rice June 30, 2011 at 4:05 pm

So the story is back up again, one of those that we remember every year…what’s the official Rag take on the marshmallow fight, or is there one? Is it one of the last remnants of good clean fun from a sleepier time, or an environmental disaster to be stopped at all costs? Cue the bickering from years past…


avatar Frank Gormlie June 30, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Don’t know, but that Sheriff explosion post at The Reader is right next to the Sweetwater River canyon hiking and biking trails that Patty and I take all the time. I’ve heard their explosions in the past. Next time you’re in the neighborhood….


avatar dave rice June 30, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I’m in the neighborhood almost every day! I grew up a few miles away (before they had ‘city folk’ things like paved roads out there), and Patty’s even come by to visit the office I’ve got set up in what used to be my parents’ basement…


avatar Frank Gormlie June 30, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Unlike some blogs, the OB Rag can republish relevant posts from its past. This is a time-honored fave.


avatar John A July 1, 2011 at 2:55 am

Hi, In checking back over some old photos and links I was thinking that maybe the first marshmallow fight was started by an OBI Hostel traveler and photographer named “Geo”.
Photos he took that night in November 2002 can still be viewed at: http://www.photohype.com/BonFires.htm. See more of his photos and writings about Ocean Beach at: http://www.photohype.com/obipage.htm
Geo has been living in Europe for over 8 years and still answers his email.
Please Note:
Police feel that marshmallow fighting is a dangerous (or maybe dirty) activity and will try and stop it (and you) if they see it happening.


avatar dp July 2, 2011 at 10:01 am

Sorry, John A.. The Marshmellow Wars have been going on since somewhere in the 80’s I believe. My first one was around ’92 or ’93 . The Ocean Beach Geriatric Surf Club Precision Marching Surfboard Drill Team and Gidget Patrol had a lot to do with it continuing and spreading, as they would gather each year near Tower 2 after their parading at the Coronado Parade all day, and launch the ‘mellows after the last blast of the fireworks finale. At one point early on in the wars, the teams would face off in British Square formations.


avatar Frank Gormlie July 2, 2011 at 11:06 am

Please read our re-post from 2010, just published.


avatar turtle July 18, 2013 at 1:17 am

yes DP, I remember seeing my first “marshmallow war” after the OB fireworks around ’92 or ’93, and my first “cream puff war” at Grateful Dead shows in the late 80’s.


avatar Sunshine July 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm

MarshmAllow’s are the white puffy tossables/eatables. MarshmEllow’s are perhaps how to return this fun annual event to its simpler days.

Keep ’em on the beach and toss ’em mellowly. Respect the Veteran’s Memorial and encourage a marshmallow-free zone there.

and since Mother Earth is not our trash can, If you bring some to toss, pack out that many (and more) before you leave.


avatar Mary Cairns July 5, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I may be the only one who was not supportive of this event. I grew up in OB/Point Loma, and returned about 1.5 years ago (retired) to the same area. Last year (2011), my husband and I walked down to OB to enjoy fireworks on the beach, next to the water. I did not have a clue about the marshmallows. So, during the fireworks (not at the end, but 1/2 way through, at the foot of Newport), I was surprised to get hit in the head, and of course many more followed (face, ears, etc). It totally ruined the enjoyment of the fireworks, and I noted crying babies nearby (probably unsuspecting parents too). I will never go back, at least not at that location, and stayed away this year and watched from a distant. Perhaps all the local merchants should warn visitors, and the cops or put signs up, or rope off an area. I am usually one that likes fun, and others should have fun – but had I known about it – I wouldn’t have gone to that location. It was too much when what I was looking for was to enjoy watching fireworks on the beach. I now warn others, and let them make their own decisions to join the fight.


avatar jim grant July 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm

A giant mess had to be cleaned up , total disrespect for property.


avatar Tyler July 6, 2012 at 7:03 am

Ban the Marshmallow war. Disrespect from visitors should not be tolerated.


avatar adrian July 7, 2012 at 2:02 pm

We don’t need a ban. We already have enough things that are banned in San Diego.

Tired of the kneejerk reaction to ban everything because someone doesn’t like it.


avatar turtle July 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm

The first OB 4th of July marshmallow fight I can remember happened about ’93 or ’94. Prior to this, throwing marshmallows (and sometimes small flour tortillas) across the lights and video projections at Grateful Dead shows had become a popular way to create visual “trails”. The intention was not to hit people, but, rather, to throw a soft, white object as far as possible. Deadheads celebrating the 4th of July in OB in the 90’s added to the trails of the fireworks with marshmallows (and small flour tortillas!) I’m not sure how it turned into a “fight”. Maybe because of the close quarters and crowds of visitors that thought the marshmallows were being thrown for the purpose of hitting them, rather than just to watch. But, by 2000, people drinking all day started getting pretty aggressive throwing marshmallows around the bonfires after the firework show. By 2005, I no longer felt safe watching the fireworks anywhere south of tower 2. People started using air cannons and home-made shooters and it HURT when you got hit. Gang bangers from other parts of the county started to take over the pits closest to the pier and the locals moved down the beach. When drinking on the beach became illegal the scene calmed down significantly, especially in the “family” areas – for awhile. I observed HUGE groups of non-obecians invade the entire beach and start fighting early and more aggressively. So sad how wonderful and fun traditions such as this can be over-run and distorted by others.


avatar RMS October 7, 2016 at 7:17 am

Thanks for posting this. I went to about 10 Dead shows as a teen in the 90’s living in San Francisco and the ‘cream puff wars’ were always a highlight for me. I’m still a Dead head and have been asking people if they remember this when I go to shows these days like Dead and Co. or JGB etc. Nobody ever knows what I am talking about. Anyways thanks for the history. Do you know if people really put LSD in the marshmallows?


avatar turtle July 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm

BTW – I don’t think the fight itself should be banned (and how would you do that anyway, make marshmallows on the beach, and smores around the bonfires for the kids, illegal?) I do think that enhanced shooting devices should be banned and that people should not be allowed to start “fighting” until 30 min. after the fireworks have ended, giving families, children and people that don’t want to participate time to leave. As for the mess, the locals know, if you’re gonna play, you have to help clean, and anything left over is usually gone in a few days anyway.


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