The first issue on the Ocean Beach Town Council's monthly meeting agenda on Wednesday evening, June 25, drew a host of television news crews. They’ve been made aware of a campaign initiated by the council to put an end to the "marshmallow war" that always follows the conclusion of the Fourth of July fireworks display.
"It's been a lot of fun," admitted boardmember Stephen Grosch, who says his family was one of the earliest participants. "But in recent years, it's jumped into the streets, it's not on the beach, and it's just no longer family-friendly at all."
What started years ago as a small crowd playfully flinging marshmallows on the sand has grown into a potentially dangerous mob scene. Marshmallows dropped in the sand are picked up and re-used, gaining weight as they become sandy and fuse with one another. Some people have reported being hit by rocks coated in marshmallow ooze. In recent years, the fight has extended beyond the sand, leaving a blackened, sticky ooze coating the streets of O.B. for blocks.
"Steam cleaners can't even clean up the sidewalks," said Grosch. "The goop just gunks up their machines and they break down."
The town council is taking a number of approaches to end the fight. Flyers are posted around town asking locals and visitors to refrain from participating. Merchants, including all of the stores along Newport Avenue, have agreed to not sell marshmallows in the days leading up to the Fourth.
Denny Knox of the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association said that a vendor that sold blowguns using marshmallow ammunition elected not to show up at this weekend's upcoming street fair after being told that the guns could no longer be sold. Local residents wearing "Mallow Out" T-shirts have volunteered to roam the beach prior to the fireworks display to spread the word about the efforts to end the fight. Grosch went so far as to encourage supporters to "clear the shelves" of marshmallows, buying up as much of the beach-area supply as possible and donating the sweets to local food banks.
Still, organizers realize their efforts may not be enough to stamp out a decades-old tradition. To that extent, Grosch and fellow boardmember Dave Cieslak are encouraging any would-be revelers to participate in the July 5 beach cleanup put on by the Surfrider Foundation.
"In 2012, we had trash pick-up events at five different locations," said Surfrider San Diego executive committee member Randy Iwai. "2016 pounds of waste was from Ocean Beach alone, out of 2600 pounds."
Last year, over 2000 pounds of mostly marshmallow-related waste were retrieved from O.B., once again making up the lion's share of the 2300 pounds of trash collected from a total of four cleanup sites.