Reader Poll: Nearly Half Want to Ban Marshmallow Wars Or Fireworks Display on July 4th

by on August 13, 2013 · 4 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Media, Ocean Beach

OB marshmallow fight 09

July 4, 2009

Nearly half of the respondents in our OB Rag poll on the future of the Marshmallow Wars want to ban it or ban the fireworks on July 4th in order to get rid of the gooey controversy.  A total of 45% of those who did respond said ban the fireworks or ban the marshmallow fight.

A plurality of those polled – 25% – picked “Ban the fireworks and you’ll stop the marshmallows” option.  Another 20% want to “just ban the marshmallow war”.

Another significant number – 16% – want to keep the tradition but contain it and control it. They picked the option:  “Keep the traditiion, but contain it in a “superdome”, “thunderdome” or “Marshmallow Areana”, with controlled access, limited time, and control what is brought in.”

OB Marshmallow aftermath 2013 02Yet OBceans are still as divided as ever. Four per cent voted to move it to Dog Beach, another 2% want to deal with it by having police officers cite anyone who throws marshmallows on the beach.  Only 2% wanted to keep the war.

A good number – 11% – are cynical about trying to change the tradition and opted for “The Marshmallow War has a life of its own, any attempt to stop or contain it will fail.” One per cent are at a loss of what to do, whereas 5% chose “other”.

Yet, another 14% said “I don’t know, but I don’t go down to the beach on the 4th of July because of the mess and potential injuries.” That’s a significant number and village leaders should definitely take note of it.

A total of 95 people responded to the poll – which ran for a week and half.  The poll does not necessarily show what OBceans think on the issue, as there is no way to take into account just those from the community or to control who votes. It is,  however, a reflection of what OB Rag readers believe.

OB Marshmallow aftermath 2013It is clear by this poll at least that there is no one single solution that anyone is rallying around. A quarter of those who voted in the poll want to ban the fireworks on July 4th as a way to get rid of the marshmallow melee. This by itself is a very unpopular stance among other OBceans.

Having police write tickets for those who throw the white gobs would be a waste of their time and taxpayer monies.  And to not do anything or throw our collective hands in the air and saying ‘I don’t know what to do!’ or shrugging our shoulders and repeating the mantra: ‘we can’t do anything because it has a life of its own’ – are not the answers either.

The event has been increasingly out of control. And the change in people’s temperament on the issue is apparent.

In a July 2010 post on this very issue, I reported:

69% of the respondents to the OB Rag poll want the Marshmallow Wars tradition to continue, although nearly half of those want some kind of controls placed on the event by volunteers, whereas 27% believe the event is out of control and want it to end.  3% wanted to study the issue.  At that time we had 62 respondents.

 OB Marshmallow aftermath 2013 03A year earlier – July 2009 – , I posted this:

Our blog ran a poll for a week and received 80 respondents.  Clearly most – 56 respondents, 71%, wanted the event to continue, although nearly half of them (33% of total) wanted some kind of volunteer-run controls placed on the craziness.

In opposition were 22 respondents – 28% – believed the Marshmallow War was out of control and needed to be ended.

These figures fit in with the Beacon’s poll, which asked “Has the annual OB Fourth of July post-fireworks marshmallow fight become an unsafe public event?” 67% said ‘no’ while 33% said ‘yes.’  The total number of respondents were not disclosed by the weekly newspaper.  Their poll is supposed to run another two days.

OB Marshmallow aftermath 2013 04We can see from the apparent evolution of people’s thoughts on the controversy, that there is a growing call for ending the tradition that began as a happy event between two families at different bonfires in the mid-1980s.

The OB Rag held the poll to continue the debate and discussion on this village issue. Others – including the OB Town Council – have also been conducting a similar poll. We need to continue trying to figure this problem out – it ain’t gonna solve itself.

It’s an OB problem and tradition – OBceans need to do something about it.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

gailpowell August 13, 2013 at 11:18 am

Feelings about the Marshmallow War are all over the place. Frank is right–we have to stay focused on resolving this issue because before we know it, another year has passed and it will soon be time to worry about the mess all over again. Hopefully, the OB Town Council will steer things in the right direction as Obecians, O.B. businesses and stakeholders make their voices heard.

The Marshmallow tradition is a beloved one and even though I have no desire to go down there and throw them around myself, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what it means to the celebrants. If there is a good way to navigate keeping the marshmallow fight, while reining in its’ more heinous qualities, then I am sure a happy medium can be reached.


obracer August 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Well said Miss Powell ! I feel the same way, it’s not for me either, but it’s a great tradition that needs a little structure to be a welcomed event.
I also feel he O.B. Town Council can and will bring direction to the event.


Gary Gilmore August 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Gail Powell, The following is a copy from an earlier post. I thought it might be relevant to your post.
This is indeed a tough one. The younger contingents really enjoy the anarchy, chaos & adrenalin rush of a free-for-all marshmallow brawl. On the surface it sounds like fun, after all, how much can marshmallows hurt? It’s just good fun! To stop the MM fight would be, in my opinion, an exercise in futility. Fireworks are the grand finale of one of the biggest and certainly the proudest holiday of the year. Plus, the fireworks are a point of pride for the community. Cancelling the fireworks in an attempt to stop the MM fight would deprive OBeachans, their families & friends the time honored tradition of the holiday. To eliminate the fireworks would be wrong. As for the inevitable MM fight after the fireworks: it needs to be contained not by a cordon of volunteers who would, most likely, be ineffective as well as become easy prime targets and definitely not by the police who would become irresistible targets which could easily lead to a forceful response. I don’t think anyone wants to see headlines that read “San Diego police use Billy clubs and Tasers on fun loving, youths for throwing marshmallows”. But by encouraging voluntary restraint. Sounds implausible doesn’t it? Well, first, a “Keep it on the Sand” publicity campaign needs to be put in place. Press releases go out to print, television & radio media. A Facebook & Twitter blast would start to go out a week or so before the 4th. This campaign would encourage participants to “Keep it on the Sand”. Usually a radio station sponsors the Fireworks. This radio station would be asked to promote a more “Family Friendly Fight” that would strongly discourage the use of Marshmallow Guns, altered marshmallows (no hidden rocks, no frozen marshmallows etc.) and ask that participants keep the fight on the sand. On the 4th of July the lifeguard station would broadcast from their sound system frequent requests for participants to “Keep it on the Sand, Keep it Clean” and, “Hold Your Fire” until the fireworks are over. A banner emblazoned with “Keep It On The Sand” could be strung from light poles at the intersection of Newport & Abbott. Also, not allowing the sale of Marshmallow guns at the OB Chili Cook-Off & Street Fair.
I’d welcome any reasonable suggestions that would keep both traditions alive in such a way that would cast OB in a positive light. We have a little over 11 months to make this happen. I think we can do it.


gailpowell August 15, 2013 at 11:49 am

“Keep it on the Sand” signs like a great idea to me. If the Lifeguards are agreeable to helping out and the OB merchants & business groups are down with hanging signs up, this may just work out. Of course, running ads and radio spots to get the word out would be good, too. 91X is usually a great Surfrider San Diego sponsor and they are usually on site on the Day After July 5th, so I bet they could comp some radio spots for the cause. James Gang perhaps could be asked to donate or give a good price on T-Shirts to be given away to participants by impartial observers who behave themselves by staying off the streets and on the beach. I like this idea very much, Gary Gilmore. It keeps the tradition alive but uses a cool strategy to keep the bad parts of the marshmallow event in check. Thank you!


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