“The grassroots effort by the OBTC and the OB community was a huge success,” said San Diego Police Lt. Natalie Stone. “We experienced at least a 90-percent decrease in marshmallows, and there were less arrests and citations.”
The assessment was shared by community leaders.
“It was a night-and-day difference from last year to this year,” said OBTC president Gretchen Kinney Newsom.
The Ocean Beach MainStreet Association (OBMA) also appeared pleased with the outcome.
“It was great,” said Denny Knox, executive director of OBMA, the community’s business-improvement district. “There were fewer people throwing [marshmallows] and lots more people picking them up. Most of [the marshmallows] were confined to the sand. Some people just went home.”
What began in 1985 as a festive, local family feud morphed over time into a large-scale free-for-all, leaving the beach community a gooey mess that has stained streets, sidewalks and nearby businesses — forcing an army of volunteers to do increasingly costly cleanups.
In 2013, the Town Council responded to a public outcry following the Fourth of July “marshmallow war” near the Ocean Beach Pier, which spilled over from the beach into the neighboring business district, leaving streets, businesses and nearby Veterans’ Plaza an unsightly and embarrassing mess.
A year later, the OBTC and police officials responded with the “Mallow Out” preventative campaign, aimed at curbing overzealous revelers.
The OBTC persuaded at least nine Ocean Beach businesses to refrain from selling the puffy treats to prevent them from being used as weaponry. Additionally, a citizen “Peace Patrol” was assembled to be on the lookout for revelers with marshmallows and gently persuade them to donate their stash to the Girl Scouts.
Local residents and businesses were also asked by the OBTC to go online at www.obtowncouncil.org and pledge to end the “marshmallow war” tradition by not throwing the confections or selling accessories like shirts, popguns, slingshots or other items promoting the fight.
“We got back to where the event was originally,” said Knox, citing the success of local merchants in “agreeing to remove marshmallows from their shelves or allowing customers to buy just one bag. It was just ridiculous to have to clean the sidewalks two or three times.”
Knox said cleanup efforts necessitated by the marshamallow wars were not only a waste of time but a “waste of water during a time when we have a real shortage.”
Knox said the “Mallow Out” campaign will continue next year.
“We really couldn’t be happier,” she said.
Town Council members were similarly pleased with the results of the campaign.
“We got the word out with the blitz of media and press conferences,” said Kinney Newsom, adding the beefed-up police presence that followed the annual community fireworks show from the pier “really helped ratchet the war down to about 20 minutes, after which it was time for people to go.”
The end result, she said, was that “The streets were clean, Veterans’ Plaza wasn’t a mess.”
Kinney Newsom said the anti-marshmallow campaign was a “communitywide effort with everyone working in collaboration with one another.”