After 57-Year Ban, Wisconsin Town Plans To Legalize Snowball Fights

A city in Wisconsin has taken steps towards decriminalizing snowball fights while responding to recent reporting and claims that the law is "outdated."

Earlier this month, the town of Wausau became famous for a local ordinance dating back to 1962 which states: "No person shall throw or shoot any object, arrow, stone, snowball or other missile or projectile, by hand or by any other means, at any other person."

"It's really in the interest of public safety. A lot of it is just consideration and common sense. You don't throw stuff at people, period," Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke told Minnesota station WCCO when news of the ordinance went viral. "It's there for a reason."

However, Wausau City Council President Lisa Rasmussen said she believes it's time to bring the laws up to date. "Maybe it's worth giving a look to see if that list could be amended, to mitigate that odd news story that keeps coming up like a bad penny," she said of the 57-year-old ordinance, as reported by The Associated Press. Town officials are expected to revisit the issue—and possibly decriminalize snowball fights—at a city council meeting in January.

Taking to YouTube with a video addressing "misconceptions" of the city's municipal code, both Barnes and Mielke noted that the citations related to the anti-snowball ordinance included instances where people endangered themselves or others.

According to Wasau Deputy Chief of Police Matt Barnes, only 10 tickets have been issued against violators of this particular ordinance (which is filed under "weapons") in the last 15 years. In the video, he cited examples including using a crossbow to fire arrows into a neighbor's yard, releasing sandbags from the roof of a parking ramp and throwing snowballs at moving vehicles.

"A fun snowball fight is a fun snowball fight. That's not something we enforce this ordinance with," Barnes said a little later in the video, before chucking a snowball at Mielke. The video showed several residents having a snowball fight in the background.

As Newsweek previously reported, six other municipalities in the state of Wisconsin have similar ordinances, and the snowball ban does not apply on private property.

"What people do in their own private yards or private property is their own business," Mielke told local media.

Meanwhile, Barnes noted that Wasau appeared to be singled out for safety codes that are observed across the country. "The idea that someone picked up on this information and decided to write a factually inaccurate article that has national implications is absurd and it's insulting to this community," he said in the clip.

Snowball Fight
University of Wisconsin-Madison students seen engaging in a campus-wide snowball fight on Bascom Hil December 9, 2009. Andy Manis/Getty Images