Since the mid-1980s, residents of the Ocean Beach community of San Diego have enjoyed a unique Fourth of July free-for-all: a marshmallow fight after the evening display of fireworks. But the sticky, gooey mess left behind in recent years has increased calls to abandon the tradition.
In that time, the spontaneous, leaderless event has gotten more aggressive, spreading from the beach to the main business street of Newport Avenue and then to surrounding streets. The mess left by countless marshmallows has been unsightly and substantial.
Mike James, 58, bartender, Universal Life Church minister, business leader and former president of the Town Council, established a Facebook page calling for an end to the marshmallow tradition. The OB Rag, a news website, warned: "OB's funky-hippy vibe has taken a turn toward anarchy."
Finally, after much civic discourse, the Town Council, a private, nonprofit group, agreed.
Even businesses sympathetic to youthful exuberance and anti-authoritarianism have joined the council's campaign under the rallying cry of "End the War! Mallow Out."
Tim Rasmussen, 31, manager of the Humble Hippie, which sells posters, tie-dyed T-shirts and other "comfortable clothing," said the marshmallow fight has become "15 minutes of fun and a month of cleanup." He also noted that marshmallows are not good for the gulls that forage the beach.
Stores are being encouraged not to sell marshmallows on the Fourth and certainly not the marshmallow "guns" that transform the little blobs of sugar into projectiles.
People should be able to come to Ocean Beach "without worrying about having a marshmallow fired at their head," said Town Council member Dave Cieslak. A frozen marshmallow or one coated with sand is particularly dangerous, he said.
But Mallow Out supporters acknowledge that ending the marshmallow fight in one swoop may not be possible. The Town Council has no legal authority to end the event, so it plans to have a "Peace Patrol" of volunteers on the Fourth pleading with people to voluntarily relinquish their marshmallows.
And there is a counter-movement to somehow restrict the marshmallow throwing to the beach, although that would run counter to Ocean Beach's libertarian strain.
Kayla Bennett, 23, a waitress at Newbreak Coffee & Cafe across from the lifeguard station, said that though there are some rowdies, the vast majority of marshmallow fans "are just trying to have some summer fun. You shouldn't take it away from everybody."
For news as it happens in Greater San Diego, follow @LATsandiego.