OB residents plead for end to Marshmallow War

SAN DIEGO - Many Ocean Beach merchants and residents are toasty under the collar about the community's tradition of hurling marshmallows around the seafront on the Fourth of July, and some of them joined police Tuesday in urging locals to use the spongy treats as munchies, not missiles.

Tossing the puffy confections following the beach town's yearly Independence Day fireworks display has evolved over the years into a frenzy of flying candy that litters the shoreline and turns nearby streets and sidewalks into a gluey mess.

Last year, a child and a senior citizen were injured, local businesses were damaged and more than 2,000 pounds of trash were left behind, according to the Ocean Beach Town Council.

"We're hoping not to have to write any tickets and get that voluntary compliance," SDPD Capt. Joe Ramos said during a late-morning briefing at the corner of Newport Avenue and Abbott Street, the site of a veterans memorial plaza that has been stained by melted marshmallows each July.

Representatives of some businesses in the coastal town have already signed a "Mallow Out" pledge on the OBTC's website, promising not to sell marshmallows on or around the holiday or promote the snack war.

10News reporter Natasha Zouves checked three convenience stores close to the beach. All three were still selling marshmallows three days out from the event.

One business owner, Faez Kalasho, proudly displayed his "Mallow Out" sign. He says he plans to remove the bags Wednesday.

"Ocean Beach is a mess, you know, it's all over the sidewalk," said Kalasho. "We want to keep Ocean Beach nice and clean."

Another business owner, Robert Shamoun, said he planned to pull the marshmallows on July 3, but once 10News arrived he decided to pull the product right away.

He says it's a "big deal" that he will not be selling them because around this time of year it is a very lucrative item.

"On July 4 (we sold) approximately 200 bags," Shamoun said. "It's a profitable item, yes. The streets were very bad, and I've been here the last 30 July 4ths for 30 years and I've never seen it this bad, ever."

The corporate chains such as 7-Eleven will not be participating in the marshmallow ban. Not only do they plan to sell them on the Fourth, they have placed their marshmallow stand in front, near the door.

The madcap food fight started out as a friendly rivalry between two families, then grew into a "violent altercation" that has caused thousands of dollars in damages, according to the council.

Last year's installment was particularly out of control, OBTC member Dave Cieslak told 10News.

"There were people throwing flaming marshmallows, frozen marshmallows," he said.

The pandemonium also has caused traffic tie-ups, left cleanup equipment damaged and brought negative attention to the neighborhood, according to Cieslak.

Last September, the council passed a resolution calling for an end to the sticky tradition. It also urged police to enforce littering and vandalism laws on the Fourth of July and to cite those who throw marshmallows -- which the group deemed "potentially harmful objects" -- in public places.

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