If the Ocean Beach Town Council (OBTC) has its way, buying or selling marshmallows for Independence Day is going to be as socially dubious as cigarettes, ammunition or pornography.
The Town Council last year called for an end to the notorious “Marshmallow War,” and it looks like they mean business.
They're pulling out all the stops and recruiting volunteers to prevent it from happening, said organizers during a June 25 monthly public meeting of the OBTC's Board of Directors.
The OBTC has persuaded at least nine Ocean Beach businesses to refrain from selling the puffy treats, lest they be used as weaponry after the annual public fireworks display at the pier, according to board member Steve Grosch.
In addition, a citizen “Peace Patrol” is being assembled to be on the lookout for revelers with marshmallows and gently persuade them to donate their stash to the Girl Scouts.
Grosch noted the irony of his opposition to the tradition. His father was in on it from the beginning in the late 1980s. It start as innocent mischief — a “fun little family thing where two warring streets were trying to one-up each other and started throwing marshmallows back and forth,” Grosch said.
But in recent years, concerns have escalated as thousands have joined in the fray, spreading along the entire beach and bursting into streets. Innocent bystanders reported being injured by frozen and even flaming marshmallows, launched by slingshot and marshmallow bazookas.
All the gooey, sticky crud is left behind for cleanup volunteers the next day, many of whom did not even participate in the gooey warfare. In 2012, Ocean Beach generated nearly 80 percent of the 2,600 pounds of trash collected at five beaches, said Randy Iwai, executive committee member of San Diego County Surfrider Foundation.
Citizens and businesses who want to prevent another marshmallow battle can sign a pledge at the OBTC website, and Internet traffic has been strong, Grosch said.
One of the participating businesses, Rite-Aid, will observe a two-day sales ban July 3 and 4. Grosch also reported strong cooperation among businesses along Newport Avenue, though it's unclear when some of those businesses planned to clear their shelves.
During the 35th annual Street Fair and Chili Cook-Off Festival on June 28, marshmallows were abundant at OB Dollar Store, Newport Quik Stop and Super Max — the latter, ironically, even displayed a supportive “Mallow Out” poster on its door.
At those businesses that do choose to sell marshmallows, Grosch called on non-marshmallow throwers to buy up the supply and ask those merchants to refrain from selling until after July 4.
The citizen Peace Patrol was suggested by the San Diego Police Department, but the volunteers won't be doing anything resembling law enforcement, said Dave Cieslak, the OBTC's public relations chairman.
They'll be out and about before and after the fireworks display in blue T-shirts as ambassadors to the campaign.
“The idea is not to be seizing marshmallows,” Cieslak said. “We just want people out there talking, explaining what happened last year and just chatting about how we can make this a peaceful, fun and clean Fourth of July.”
Receptacles will be available for citizens who can be persuaded to donate marshmallows to the Girl Scouts, Cieslak said.
Will police cite revelers for throwing marshmallows? Police “have agreed to do what they're calling 'appropriate enforcement action,' Cieslak said, “meaning, if they see something, they're going to take action if they see a crime being committed.”
How this approach will differ from previous years in unclear. Lt. Natalie Stone, who addresses the OBTC on behalf of the Western Division, did not return phone calls or emails asking for clarification.
But Cieslak offered: “They're not going to ticket every single person who throws a marshmallow. Let's be honest here. That would get kind of ridiculous. But they're going to be out ther. They're going to staff up. They've been working with us since Day 1.”