Ocean Beach Town Council Unilaterally “Cancels” July 4th Marshmallow Fights

by on September 26, 2013 · 12 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach

Lack of Community Consensus Could Lead to Worse Problems

At their public monthly meeting – held last night, Sept. 25th – the Ocean Beach Town Council voted to “cancel” the July 4th marshmallow wars.

The Council board passed a resolution that called on the community to end the annual and traditional marshmallow fights held just after the fireworks display on the beach.

Council representative Dave Cieslak told the media:

“Over time the hope is that the marshmallow war starts to taper off and goes away and that people can enjoy the Fourth of 4th of July without worrying about having a marshmallow thrown at their head.”

As part of their resolution, the OBTC will ask the San Diego Police Department to enforce the city’s laws against littering and throwing harmful objects.

The council will also be asking local merchants not to sell marshmallows, marshmallow “guns”, and other items related to the tradition, such as T-shirts.  The fireworks will continue.

[Editor’s note: Unfortunately the OB Rag was not able to cover the OBTC meeting and at this time we do not have  details, such as the vote, etc.]

However, within the pro’s and con’s of the board’s resolution, there are some issues and questions that are left unresolved, despite this vote by the board.

First, we applaud the council’s effort to take some leadership around this sticky issue, as there hasn’t been any leadership or sponsorship taken by neighborhood groups up to now – due to the “organic” nature of the tradition itself, and it has been absolutely a leadership-less yearly event.

Yet the vote last night appears to be a unilateral effort by the council to grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground.  This could be a problem if you’re in a china shop.

The OB Town Council – being a private organization – does not have any legal or technical jurisdiction on or of the issue.  It does have moral and civic authority however.

But, the unholy tradition of the merry marshmallow melee is not the town council’s to cancel. It is a community problem and issue, hence, it’s up to the community to deal with it.  The town council cannot simply rule by fiat.

Is this it – is this the community’s consensus? To ban the fight? And ask the cops to ticket those who throw marshmallows?  Did you, dear reader from OB, vote on this issue?

The OB Rag had hoped that there would have been more of an effort to develop a community consensus on what to do with the marshmallow wars. Many have complained – including us – of the outrageous gooey mess left this past year. It’s a community problem, there needs to be a community consensus and solution.

Consensus must be built – and one cannot rely on those who come to your public meetings or who sign up on membership cards or who vote on a website poll as the base for that consensus.

The OB Rag had asked the community to form a type of task force to come to some kind of neighborhood consensus, and in fact, had asked the Town Council to take the lead in developing a coalition of sorts – open to groups and individuals who wanted to work on the issue.

As far as we know, there has been no official response from the council on this initiative.

The OB Rag has also proposed that OB corral and confine the tradition, and make it similar to other events, such as the tomato fight in Spain and the orange fight in Italy – or even the Huntington Beach annual event (a national paintball tournament that attracts tens of thousands).

There are definitely problems with the direction the town council has taken.

Asking the police to ticket marshmallow throwers is asking for big trouble.  First, it’s a waste of valuable and limited police time and energy and a waste of taxpayer monies.

Second, what commander would send an officer into a thick crowd in the middle of the night on the beach who just threw a marshmallow? It’s dangerous for all involved including bystanders. Also actions like that taken by cops in the midst of an alcohol-fueled crowd could start riots themselves. The police know and understand these rules of thumb.

The marshmallow wars are a community tradition and a community problem – and the community has to deal with it. We cannot simply declare it “illegal” and force the issue into being a “police-problem”.  This is side-stepping the problem.

Many in OB may be feeling relieved that somebody is stepping forward to deal with the “out-of-control” happening. Residents and merchants alike since July 5th have been expressing their disgust and outrage on the aftermath of this year’s event.

But there is a troubling tendency to just blame it all on “outsiders” – to lay the responsibility for  the outrage at the sandy feet of those from outside OB. This is also not getting to the problem.  Blaming it on people who don’t live here or at the beach is akin to what folks up in Huntington Beach who blame the “909’ers” on their problems do.

Many of those down on the beach on July 4th are us or our kids or some of our neighbors.

NO DOUBT something has to be done. We’ve been afraid that as the Independence Day event fades away, the issue is also fading away – and once again OB will be faced come July 2014 without resolving the issue – and it could even be worse.

But because there has been no apparent effort by anyone – not the OBTC either – to develop a community consensus on the issue, without fully discussing alternatives, the town council by unilaterally moving ahead could cause even greater problems.

Passing resolutions banning the event and thus making the marshmallow wars a police issue – even with a city PR campaign – is not dealing directing with the problem.

News sources:



{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyler September 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I agree with the Town Council, and I have no problem with them speaking for me in this decision. They are right – this community will never come to a consensus. That’s when you need something like the TC to step in. It’s just too fairytale-ish to me to think that this event can be corralled. I’m not a huge fan of black and white stances, but I think this is one that fits the bill.


Frank Gormlie September 26, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Tyler, could be they actually do represent a consensus. But how do we know?


SaneVoice September 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I think it’s a stupid “tradition” that doesn’t fit into the OB mentality of non-violence and environmental stewardship. I also think this decision helps OBTC excuse themselves from potential lawsuits should anyone get seriously hurt since OBTC doesn’t endorse it.


editordude September 26, 2013 at 2:29 pm
Jane Donley September 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm

In the past few months there has been ample discussion of the marshmallow wars by community members (including comments in the OB Rag). As part of the cleanup crew all the way to Dog Beach, I’m glad the Town Council has taken a leadership stand to end this mess. For years, due to the illegal fireworks in the alleys of OB, I have had to drug my dogs and cat, and keep us locked up and safe behind closed doors and windows on the 4th. It is a dreaded holiday, no longer a celebration of freedom.


Hdiggler September 28, 2013 at 11:05 am

What does that have to do with marshmallows, the fireworks will continue.. Are you down there afterwards cleaning up? No? I participate in the fight AND clean up the next day.


Debbie September 26, 2013 at 5:42 pm

It was time to say no more. No more trashing OB. Everyone can still have fun with their family and friends.


NinjaDogma September 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Geez, taking all the fun away! Instead of canning the whole thing, why couldn’t they just follow the lead of punk rockers and have a cordoned off “Marsh Pit?”


editordude September 27, 2013 at 9:57 am

Dear reader: please see new poll on our sidebar on whether you agree or not with the recent decision by the OBTC to ban the marshmallow wars.


SaneVoice September 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm

What’s fun about having your beach and your neighborhoods trashed ? Where’s the fun in hurling objects at someone and your only intention is to hurt that person ?


Kenloc September 28, 2013 at 7:07 am

I agree with the decision,but I wonder how this will be enforced. I’m sure this decision isn’t going to make everyone instantly stop.
Are bags going to be searched for marshmallows? Are we going to stop and frisk? Will the PD have a marshmallow task force on the 4th?
The logistics of stopping this are tough.It’s not like this was an OBTC sponsored event that they can just cancel by vote and noone will show up. It will be interesting to see how this plays out next year.


Jon September 30, 2013 at 9:12 am

It boggles my mind that more people showed up to a council meeting to talk about throwing marshmallows all over our beach than showed up to hear our local congressman come to address the community about important issues like the ACA. Priorities OB?


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