The Night OB’s Marshmallow Wars Ended

by on August 16, 2018 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

OB July 4 2014 road

A few marshmallows dot the roadway at Newport and Abbott. (All photos – except one – were taken by Frank Gormlie)

This is based on a post originally published July 5, 2014.

July 4, 2014 was the night the Marshmallow Wars in Ocean Beach ended. The wars had lasted 3 decades – since it began in 1985 with competing parties of neighbors at the beach at a couple of bonfires. Then years later – full pitched battles involving hundreds if not thousands of participants joining the virtual free-for-all. (Go here for the beginnings.)

Then its last few seasons – the wars cycloned off the sand and onto the streets, vehicles, local businesses and landmarks of the neighborhood. Many became disgusted at the gooey results clearly messing with harmony of the village the day after.

The first calls to end or at least restrict this particular brand of totally-local OB shenanigans began surfacing in 2009. That July, the OB Rag asked “Should Ocean Beach End Its Marshmallow Wars?” The Rag had run a poll among its readers and found:

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.

Nothing changed. It just got larger – and more messier. In June 2012, the OB Rag called for “Moderation During OB’s Marshmallow Wars on July 4th.”

Nothing changed. Yet, we kept the discussion going, even offering alternatives. Here’s a chronicle of the early discussion published in 2012.

Finally, opinions started to change. The OB Town Council held a public forum on the issue on July 24, 2013. By a 2013 OB Rag poll, nearly half of the respondents wanted to ban the marshmallows. Then in late September, the OBTC passed a formal resolution calling for a ban on the Marshmallow wars.

By late June 2014, momentum was gathering to support the ban. A handful of local liquor stores and markets pledged not to sell marshmallows on the holiday. Here’s our report from June 26, 2014:

It appears that the campaign to end OB’s marshmallow wars is gaining momentum.  The campaign – led and organized by the OB Town Council – centers on a “Mallow Out” pledge effort to not use or buy marshmallows on the national holiday. It was announced at last night’s OBTC meeting that Newport Avenue merchants have promised to limit marshmallow sales on July 4th. … [then-]Councilman Ed Harris has come out in support of their effort. …

Stores that joined in the pledge included Newport Liquor, Pat’s Liquor, OB Quick Stop, and Olive Tree Market. Gretchen Newsom – then head of the OBTC – even went as far as holding a press conference calling for support from locals and businesses for the ban.

Which is how we got to July 4, 2014. Here is my report on the night the OB Marshmallow Wars ended:

There was less than a third of what it was in 2013. Way less marshmallows were thrown, the throwing did not get out of hand, and by 9:50 it was over and there was hardly a marshmallow in the streets down around Newport and Abbott. It indeed, was but a shadow of its former self – and that was a good thing. No violence. No riot.

Compared to last year, there were no marshmallows thrown before the fireworks, none thrown during the fireworks, and after the explosions and light show, it took a few moments before the first white globs were seen in the air.

Police were fairly low-key, although their presence was known – they had set up a command post in and around the trailer in the OB Pier parking lot. At least two arrests were made – one was related to the marshmallow throwing.

OB July 4 2014 MW1

Woman being arrest for being over-zealous in retaliation against a teenager who threw a marshmallow at her. (Photo by Matthew Wood)

The OB Rag had several observers present at last night’s revelry – including this reporter – in order to monitor what exactly happened when the fireworks ended – to see if the marshmallow ban held or not. For most of the time, I stood close to the intersection of Newport Avenue and Abbott Street with camera and notebook in hand (most of my photos didn’t come out for the bad lighting).

Matt Wood was close by as were a couple of other observers. One – Daniel H – sent us multiple tweets of his observations which Patty back at the office re-tweeted last night.

I took my position before the fireworks went off. The crowd had gathered – yet two hand-made signs strapped to flag poles and illuminated with their own lights announced “No Marshmallows” and “Littering is illegal”. Half of the last block of Newport had been blocked off by police as well as the south end of Abbott.

Once in a while a chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” would break out briefly. An Uncle Sam on stilts strolled by. People were streaming in from all over.

Over to the side, right near the OB Hotel, a 3-member band from Alpine called “Hello From Montawk” was trying to play. Another reporter, J.C. Playford, came up to me and told me the OB Marshmallow Wars were famous all over the world, in Europe and England.

Upstairs in the Wonderland bar, the crowd burst out in the national anthem. Then the fireworks began – and the explosions. The first loud boom elicited expectant cries of joy from the watchers. A grown man next to me “That’s what I want – I want explosions!”

OB July 4 2014 crowdAt this point, the beach was packed. The cement sidewalks were packed. The grassy areas were packed. A small crowd stood in the street on Newport watching the lights and sounds.

OB July 4 2014 crowdstreet

But this is not a report on the fireworks – they were great as usual ….

OB July 4 2014 firewks

A couple with a dog stood next to me. She used to live in OB but now they live in Ramona. They couldn’t wait for the marshmallow shindig to begin. I asked her about the marshmallows. She said “It’s a tradition. Like turkey on Thanksgiving.” They both later threw a couple of the blobs taken from the street. Ironically, the couple was staying in the OB Hotel. Minutes later, I watched as the hotel manager, Steve Grosch went by with a bag busily picking up marshmallows.

Sure, marshmallows were thrown, but not too many reached the street. Other observers said that the beach was filled with them. But a person who showed up to clean this morning – Sat. the 5th – said there weren’t any in the streets – unlike last year.

All our observers concurred – much more tame than 2013.

Grosch was part of a team of OBceans going after the white stuff that included Pat James of the OB Historical Society, Gretchen and Trudy from the OB Town Council. To a person, they all said that it was much more mellow than before, like maybe only 20% of last year’s over-the -top event.

OB July 4 2014 team

Trudy of OBTC, Mel of Woman’s Club, Pat of OB Historical Society, and Stephanie.

One arrest was made of a woman when she jumped on a teen male after he had thrown a marshmallow at her. She had grabbed him in a headlock and was punching him. She was taken away to applause from the nearby crowd.

Near the end of the evening event, as crowds were leaving the beach in troves, a woman started throwing sand on homeless people and calling them names. Another woman jumped up and confronted her. The first woman began attacking her, pulling some of her hair out. A third woman joined the fray as did another, both trying to pull the assailant off the person who had tried to stop her from dissing the homeless.

OB July 4 2014 compostAll 4 were taken to the police command post to get the stories straightened out. The police released the woman who confronted the assailant – and I spoke to her. Kayla Ziogas had stood up for the homeless, and no, she’s not homeless. She’s been in OB for 2 years and a had a group of friends who all hugged her and her friend Erin who had come to her rescue.

As I said earlier, the marshmallows were over by 9:50pm and the beach and street were clearing out.

The Town Council’s attempt to ban the tradition that had gotten out of hand was 80% successful – if you want to put a number on it.

The marshmallow controversy is over – for the time being – the clean-up that followed was much more “mallow” than past years.

On to the rest of the summer – and on to the rest of OB’s controversies. …..

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