A Proposal from the OB Rag: How to keep the “Marshmallow War” Tradition and Enjoy it.

by on July 24, 2013 · 18 comments

in Culture, Ocean Beach, Organizing

OB marshmallow fight 09Here is a proposal on how to keep OB’s tradition of the “Marshmallow Wars” and to enjoy it.

Many around the community have agreed that the event after the fireworks on July 4th – a tradition that harks back to 1985 – has become out of control, is no longer “fun” for OBceans, and is injuring and damaging too many people and bystanders and property and the environment.

The first fight began when good-natured warring parties of neighbors at the beach began throwing marshmallows at each other. Since then, hundreds if not thousands of participants have joined the virtual free-for-all around the bonfires.

In one sense, the event has become so much a part of OB’s unique tradition, that it might be a damn shame if it is banned outright. Other countries have similar annual events and have managed to continue them by containing them.

Here is our proposal:

Keep the OB Marshmallow Wars – By Containing the Event in the Marshmallow Arena

  • Cordon off half-acre of beach sand – “the Marshmallow Arena” – close to or including the “original” site near at least two firepits.  Using k-rails and nets, this area would be surrounded by barriers. This is done prior to July 4th; beachgoers can use the area until the anointed time for the marshmallow event, and then are required to leave.
  • Hold the marshmallow war BEFORE the fireworks – during late daylight hours – and for only ONE HOUR.
  • Control admittance to the Arena by volunteers, private security, and charge a nominal fee for clean-up and for set-up;
  • Only marshmallows are allowed; none frozen and no marshmallow guns;
  • Allow only 1,000 participants total; 500 locals and 500 “outsiders”; participants who pay the fee are given a wristband – and can be purchased prior to the event and online.
  • Participants must only wear bathing suits or similar attire;
  • Spectators, parents with young kids and others can watch the event behind nets and in bleachers set up.
  • At the starting gun, the ‘war’ begins; at the second gun an hour later, all marshmallow throwing ceases; violators are given “citations” by volunteers that require them to help with the clean-up.
  • The clean-up resources are provided by the entry fees;
  • Volunteers – local citizens – can be recruited for the event by a coalition of community organizations, the OB Town Council, the Mainstreet Association, the Planning Board, the OB Woman’s Club, OB Surfrider, Clean San Diego, surfing associations, the Kiwanis, the Masons, the OB Rag, the Green Center, ….

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

judi curry July 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

Like the suggestions, Frank. Hope the Town Council goes along with them.


Catherine July 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I don’t think it could be worse than what we have now. If it works, it would probably take a couple of years to stop the marshmallow madness after the fireworks. There would also need to be a proactive PR campaign to send a message that OB is changing the tradition and get people excited about the new, more controlled, alternative.

I think any attempt to ban the marshmallow fight itself would be futile and impossible. What would that even involve? You can’t criminalize marshmallow throwing. As much as I would love to never again see a marshmallow hurtling through the air, it’s not realistic.

However, we still have other problems on the 4th that aren’t dealt with in this solution. Although I think the wild anticipation for the fight helps set the stage for them. Public intoxication at neighborhood house/block parties that spill into the street and illegal fireworks that the police aren’t ticketing, though I wish they would. Police will say that the public should call and report illegal fireworks, but I’ve seen officers ignore fireworks going off right under their nose. Until the community sends a message to the police that we don’t want such a wild atmosphere on the 4th, they are unlikely to change their approach. It seems they are just waiting and watching and standing ready to deal with some huge violent situation instead of just doing a little proactive community policing. Until those things are brought under control, I don’t feel comfortable bringing my young family to the event, and I refuse to support it financially or otherwise, and will continue to turn a blind eye to the little coffee can fundraisers around town.


bodysurferbob July 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm

there can be plenty of p.r. beforehand, get radio and tv stations behind what we’re trying to.


jim grant July 24, 2013 at 9:46 pm

the pr is what has caused the escalation . the second you tell people ” hey you cant do that” what do you think they DO ?? the exact thing you told them not to do. especially drunk obnoxious people…..


gailpowell July 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Sounds good to me. Although I don’t know that the fun would be the same prior to the fireworks as it traditionally has been after the fireworks.


OB Mercy July 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Has anyone thought about how you’re going to keep it from going on anywhere OUTSIDE of a closed in area? And how that would be enforced?? This is NOT going to stop people from doing it on the streets up from the beach area. Police aren’t going to do it. OBMA is not going to pay for enforcement most likely. I mean really people, are you thinking this through at all??


Frank Gormlie July 25, 2013 at 11:23 am

Okay, Mercy, how about sharing some of your own solutions.


OB Mercy July 25, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I don’t have any solutions, or I would have gotten up and spoke last night. I think the best thing right now is to do what they talked about. Suppression of social media, no tv or radio advertising, no selling of t shirts or marshmallow guns, and then even with all that, it is going to take several yrs for that to truly have an affect I believe.


Citizen Cane July 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm

I checked with my friend Carnac. He thinks there will be fenced-in areas on the beach, but they won’t be mosh pits for marshmallow warriors. They will be holding pens for people arrested for drunk and disorderly. Some will be released, but not until they are checked for wants and warrants. Litterbugs will simply have to kneel on the sand briefly while they’re being cited. The police will have new smartphones with fingerprint readers to make their triage ticketing much easier. There will also be steep, new fines for littering in the coastal zone. Paintball guns might be used to mark the backs of suspects that try to evade arrest. The police will use this annual event as a training excercise. They will hone their skills and tactics to be more prepared when dealing with political protests, like Occupy Wall Street.


John July 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Nominated for reply of the year- no, century.


Jon July 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Would have paid good money to watch someone recite this at last nights town council meeting.


jim grant July 24, 2013 at 9:43 pm

All sounds fine and well until somebody has to come forward and put their name on the dotted line and take responsibility for this and do all the things listed above…..whos ready to do that ???


K rail, nets , bleachers , private security, all the restrictions on clothes worn , time of war no guns , a starters gun ….what a joke. Oh and clean up what a big ass joke that statement is.


Frank Gormlie July 25, 2013 at 7:14 am

Jim , do you ever get out? Did you see what they do in Spain and Italy -and oh, even in Reno? If OB can organize hundreds of music-goers into paid tents and corrals for events, why can’t OB do this? Too difficult? Too confusing? And you wanted to lay tarps down on the sand? What a joke, oh, I mean, what a big ass joke! Gee, I’m just getting back at you for your nonsensical comments.


jim grant July 25, 2013 at 7:37 am

I guess you DID not actually read or understand my suggestion several weeks ago. What I actually said was on the Veterans Plaza to protect the etched concrete maybe lay down 6 mil plastic then 2″ of sand on top of that would PROTECT the plaza concrete and memorials during the festivities . This is a very common construction practice it is fast and inexpensive to do.
Frank 6 mil plastic is 100 bucks your plan involves thousands of dollars plus it requires somebody an individual or a llc or obma or obtc to sign a name on a line assuming liability and organizational responsibility …who would do this?? nobody i know in ob.
Plus its going to be on the beach , have you dealt with the coastal commission recently? I assume a permit would be required correct… . The same vetting process that goes into OTL would be required I believe.

not nonsensical just realistic…

Spain, Italy or Reno is a long long way from the drunken corner at Newport . But good luck in your efforts. Maybe instead of the sand how about at Robb Field on a baseball diamond?

OK I have to get out now, BTW how do you like living in my old stomping grounds Lemon Grove ? I am loving La Costa we just bought a place high on the hill….livin the dream.


gailpowell July 25, 2013 at 7:57 am

Jim Grant is a fabulous photographer and seems like a good guy but he can have a bad attitude sometimes. Frank, do not let his negativity bring you down. Grant also took Surfrider to task for only cleaning up at the Day After Mess while the TV cameras were on. I don’t think so. Surfrider is at county beaches, 3 Saturdays out of 4, TV cameras or not!


Frank Gormlie July 25, 2013 at 11:26 am

Thanks Gail; Jim and I frequently go back and forth with each other as we have over the years. He chides me for living in Lemon Grove, I send back a retort ‘how’s La Costa?’ but it’s all good. We’ll shake hands next time he gets away from his wonderful lens.


jim grant July 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Gail you are mistaken. Anybody who knows me will attest I have never had a bad day in my life. Bad attitude or negativity? hummm…. well if having my own opinion is such so be it.
As far as Surfrider: yeah I think its kind of interesting they bailed AS SOON as the cameras went away leaving a giant mess on the plaza. The ” clean up” was not complete by any stretch of the imagination, and it still is not. So they cant say we cleaned up the marshmallow mess for the OB community its not done. The sand is littered the gutter are clogged with white melted crap. Gail just so YOU know 4 hours of clean up is appreciated but a long way from doing the job complete.
That mess would NEVER be tolerated in La Jolla or other parts of San Diego or say Laguna Beach or Newport Beach or Huntington those Surfriders folks would be screaming for something to be done to prohibit the vandalism and litter that OB tolerates and in fact apparently enjoys.


obracer July 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm

” Next year “….. ” next time “…….sounds great, lots of great ideas.
Lets clean up THIS years mess ! then we can figure out the details for ” next year ”

Visit the plaza with a scraper or shovel and make a difference, THIS YEAR.


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