“To Ban or Not to Ban the OB Marshmallow Wars”

by on July 19, 2013 · 4 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Homelessness, Life Events, Media, Ocean Beach

By Giovanni Ingolia

Beside the turmoil that has been happening at city hall (A subject I would much prefer to discuss as its implications are much greater), Ocean Beach has a controversy of its own- the marshmallow fight after the fireworks.

I want to remind everyone this is not an event sponsored by the OB Town Council, OB Planning Board, OB CDC, OB Historic Society or OB Main Street Association. I personally sit as a board member on two of the groups and follow every one of them. They all do great jobs. (Remember this is my opinion and not that of the boards I sit on.)

The marshmallow fight event has its supporters and its detractors. Both sides make good points that are hard to disagree with. One thing all groups have in common is this event shouldn’t be harmful to others and the mess should be cleaned up immediately due to the problems it creates to the environment. We need to all work together.

Problems with a Ban

When I first started to see calls for the ban of the marshmallow fight there were also calls to end the fireworks.

Banning the 4th of July fireworks, a tradition that honors our country’s birth, should never be stopped in OB. To me I thought we really need to stop being reactionary and start being rational. I think we need to think the process out logically.

I will point to the alcohol beach ban as an example. I was led to believe it would get rid of the traveling homeless individuals that congregate on Newport by the pier, and that it would make our beaches cleaner during events such as our beloved Independence Day celebration.

It was a riot in PB by a bunch of NON-BEACH residents that made the city residents ban alcohol by law abiding citizens in places like Ocean Beach. After the ban it appears the problem is worse with the homeless travelers and the beach is dirtier after the 4th. Apparently that ban did not work so I ask will a ban to the marshmallow fight work, who will enforce it, and how?

Reasons for a Ban

Yes, the marshmallow fight is, in some locations, out of control.

I make sure my car isn’t parked by my house and is parked up the hill out of OB knowing it will be covered in marshmallows the next day.

I avoid the corner of Newport and Abbott as I know that’s where the center of the problem is.

The next day our beach is trashed in marshmallows that end up in the storm drain, harming aquatic life and it can’t be good for a pelican or seagull to eat them. After all they are unhealthy for me to eat as well.

There is also a cost to business and residents in the epicenter. Businesses have to pay staff to clean up the marshmallows and residents have to take time to clean the exterior of their homes preventing them from enjoying our beautiful weather and the community we live in.

The Elephant in the Room

No matter what your view we need to realize there is community support in an unorganized way. Our businesses sell marshmallows, t-shirts, and marshmallow cannons at events.

It makes money and that’s the American way. Should the t-shirts be banned? Is that a violation of the first amendment? What about the sale of marshmallows? Does that add to restrictions on business?

Lastly banning the sale of marshmallow cannons at the street fair? Is this a violation of the 2nd amendment?

Yes, I was being facetious. Some may say don’t go to OB due to the marshmallow fight. Other individuals say you should come down and see how crazy fun this is and their curiosity leads them to Newport and Abbott. This event brings people and revenue into our community who will then potentially come again and support our business community.

What I have found is one half of me enjoys it and the other half hates it.


In the end there is plenty of blame to go around and we all need to stop pointing fingers. Even the local and national news have reports of this event. It’s all over YouTube. What we all need to do is sit down, discuss it, come up with a logical solution, and respect each other’s position.

With that said I will not take a stand on this issue one way or another until I see a clear logical solution. Don’t let history repeat itself. Bans aren’t always the solution. One only needs to point to the alcohol beach ban as proof.

Giovanni Ingolia is a member of the OB Planning Board and is Chair of the Public Facilities Financing Sub-committee of the Board.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Cindi July 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Giovanni–Have you seen the report Frank Gormlie did from a OB Rag member poll? What are your thoughts on a roped off area maintained by OBMA that would cost a fee for entry and temporary signs on the beach and along Newport that warn littering is a crime and the potential fee for littering and also that shooting marshmallows at property is considered vandalism and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Include the address/location of the pre-approved, fenced off/roped off Marshmallow War area and hours of operation. Like you mentioned, the MW has history and in the past, it has been a symbol of local summer fun. I agree to not get rid of the fireworks. And even liked what others came up with–make the MW Fun Zone like a Laser Tag with stuff to duck down behind and hide and only a limited amount of participants allowed in the designated area at a time. The fence would need to be high, but then people can sign a waiver before play (in case of injury) and the Marshmallow War history can continue, just in a new format to meet a new era of concern to safety and keeping our beach (and homes and businesses and vehicles) clean.


Giovanni Ingolia July 20, 2013 at 11:42 am

OB Cindi, I unfortunately did not see the poll so I am unable to comment. When it comes to vandalism of property or tampering with marshmallows with the intent to harm others, those responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We also should enforce littering laws. This could be part of the solution to curb the problems associated with the Marshmallow war. I also think your idea (along with others) of creating a roped-off fun zone, for participants who just enjoy throwing marshmallows at each other is a good idea in controlling this tradition. When we all come together that’s when well thought out solutions are created. I just don’t think out right banning things that punish the masses because of the crimes committed by the few is the solution. Thanks again for your comment you made some great points.


gailpowell July 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I think that OB Cindi has a great idea here but I can now hear the howls of protest that will surely arise once the marshmallow zealots get wind of this idea. Making the tradition into something that is confined to an area, signing waivers and having fences turns the celebration into something too “business-like” for OB. People searching for an answer to the marshmallow question will need to walk a very fine line between balancing the need to curtail the destructive aspects but not harshing the fun buzz of the holiday spirit. It’s not impossible but will require people coming together to search for a satisfactory solution.


Carole Helstrom August 16, 2013 at 11:55 am

Resident of OB for 16 years. It was FUN when one area (near volleyball nets) centered the marshmallow throwers. I took friends this year (TWO CHIILDREN included!) Whomever said we need to “Keep it for the children” did not see children in tears from pain after being hit multiple times! We could not get off the beach,…fires down to the pier! Pelted in the streets too when we finally got there! NO TOSSING..FIGHTING! Made worse by the MEGA-MARSHMALLOWS this year…which people PUT ROCKS INTO! Slingshots, marshallow guns…this is ABSURD! DON’T CONTAIN IT…BAN IT! Close it down totally!

People don’t worry about consequences for their actions/fun anymore….and the cleanup here was AWFUL! Obecians have been tolerant for years…but this is way out
of the fun zone….IT’S DANGEROUS!

If McDonald’s was sued for making their hot coffee too hot, then someone is going to look to sue Ocean Beach for the fun they chose to participate in (or couldn’t avoid) being too painful! JUST SAY NO….and arrest any who violate this ruling!

THANK YOU for helping to return peace…and sanity…to Ocean Beach!


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