When fireworks ended in Ocean Beach on the 4th of July, the annual marshmallow fight began – only this time, it was considerably mellower.
Instead of a full-out war like last year, revelers – still enthusiastic and in patriotic spirits – threw some of the treats back and forth and played a bit, but refrained from getting too swept up in the action.
The marshmallow war had been on the minds of OB residents for many months leading up to Friday, especially OB Town Council leaders who urged people not to participate this year.
Opponents argued the event has gotten out of hand in recent years, creating a dangerous atmosphere and gooey, sticky mess around the small seaside community.
Last year, OB leaders received reports of people throwing flaming and frozen marshmallows at one another, leading to some children and elderly passersby being hurt by the flying sweets. Leaders even heard of someone putting batteries inside a marshmallow before hurling it into the air.
Business owners and residents also had to deal with a lot sticky aftermath last year and tedious clean-up efforts.
As a result, the OB Town Council launched its “Mallow Out on the 4th” campaign this year asking revelers to skip the marshmallow fight and find other ways to entertain themselves.
OB businesses were asked to monitor how many bags of marshmallows they were selling, while San Diego police officers helped patrol the streets in an effort to keep the marshmallow madness to a minimum.
Steve Grosch, an OB business owner and member of the town council said the “Mallow Out” campaign had received positive feedback.
“People understand our message and that [the marshmallow fight] has done a lot of damage to our community,” he said. “It costs the business district thousands and thousands to clean up. It’s literally volunteers on their hands and knees scraping the marshmallow goo off the sidewalks.”
In the hours leading up to the event, Grosch and other town council members spent time talking with beachgoers and doing a bit of friendly bartering.
In exchange for their bags of marshmallows, Grosch gave beachgoers a “Respect OB” sticker or “Mallow Out” T-shirt.
Grosch said scaling down the marshmallow fight is in the best interest of the community, as what began as a fun, light-hearted event has really changed.
Grosch said the marshmallow fight began in the 1980s when two OB families – including his father – tossed the treats at one another in good fun. It grew more and more from there and became a July 4th tradition.
“It was a lot of fun for a lot of years and the tradition remained family friendly, but then in the last few years it jumped into the street and turned into something completely different,” he said. “It turned from family friendly into something kind of dangerous down here and not only that, but the cleanup afterwards is just horrific.”
On Friday night, as the marshmallows began to fly, some beachgoers took part while others chose to depart.
Mother Beth Viquesney said she’s been watching the fireworks in Ocean Beach for the past 10 years, but leaves right after to avoid getting her family caught in the marshmallow fight.
“It’s gotten pretty violent, which can be uncomfortable with little kids around. Every year, we turn the car around,” Viquesney told NBC 7. “I’m not taking any chances with little ones.”
Meanwhile, others said the event was harmless.
“There’s good fun to it as well,” said Katarina London.
Val Orloff said he was just there to have a good time, not to cause trouble.
“[We’re here] just to throw them. People have fun. These are soft – I don’t want to hurt anybody,” Orloff said.
“It’s just the build-up and it’s just crazy. People do it every year and that’s all it is. It’s all fun,” said another attendee. “People are going to do it no matter what. The more you tell people not to do it, the more they’re going to want to do it.”
According to police, no one was arrested in connection with the marshmallow war this year.
OB Town Council members and volunteers coordinated a beach clean-up Saturday along with the San Diego Surfrider Foundation to pick up the post-4th mess along local beaches, including any wayward marshmallows.
By midday, the Surfrider Foundation reported that nearly 650 volunteers had combed four local beaches collecting 1,410 pounds of trash and 326 pounds of recycling. This included 489 plastic bags, 983 pieces of styrofoam and 14,796 cigarette butts.
The foundation said this was a significant decrease in the amount of post-4th trash collected at beaches in recent years, perhaps due to the mellowing out of the marshmallow fight, at least in OB.