Snowball fights are as American in winter as hot chocolate, right? Maybe not in Wausau, Wisconsin. For decades, snowball fights in that city have meant getting in trouble with the law. But some folks hope a revamped ruling could happen in time for the next blizzard.
A 1962 ban on throwing projectiles in Wausau lumps snowballs into the same category as “arrows, stone, and other missiles.” The law views them as projectles that can cause serious harm. City Ordinance 9.08.020 prohibited throwing such objects “by hand or by any other means” either at people or into buildings.
City Council President Lisa Rasmussen says that recent negative national attention over the rarely used ordinance has raised questions. Headlines such as “Worst Town in America” have council members wondering whether it’s time to take snowballs off the naughty list.
“Maybe it’s worth giving a look to see if that list could be amended, to [soften] that odd news story that keeps coming up,” Rasmussen says.
To make their case, Wausau police and the mayor made a video showing officers having a snowball fight.
“A fun snowball fight is a fun snowball fight,” Deputy Chief Matt Barnes says in the video, “and that’s not something [for which] we enforce this ordinance.”
Barnes says the department has used the ordinance to write about 10 tickets in the last 15 years. Those included cases of people shooting crossbows into a neighbor’s yard, dropping sandbags off the roof of a downtown parking ramp, and on just two occasions, throwing snowballs at passing cars.
The video ends with Barnes clocking Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke in the back of the head with a snowball. “Awww, that one got away from me,” Barnes says sheepishly.
The City Council will consider legalizing snowball fights at a meeting later this month.
(Zach Dysart’s dog, Atlas, jumps for a snowball. Dysart lives in North Dakota, so he’s okay to throw it. Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)