You can have a snowball in hell, but not in Wausau, Wisconsin—at least, not until the city council meets sometime early in 2020 to throw its anti-snowball ordinance off the books once and for all.
Frankly, the town is sick of looking flaky.
No launching allowed.
The ordinance has been on the books there (and in some other Midwestern towns) for more than 50 years,. Snowballs somehow got lumped into a list of things local citizens aren’t allowed to launch at people. Other items include missiles, arrows, and rocks. You can sort of understand a rule against, say, missile launching. But no one in Wausau quite remembers how the snowballs got packed in there.
It's not really enforced much either. In the last 15 years, says Deputy Police Chief Matt Barnes, the department only wrote about 10 tickets citing the law. By the way, just two of these involved snowballs, which had been lobbed at cars. (Other tickets involved arrows—a more pointed offense.)
While the law's origins are buried under a thick, white layer of mystery, some reporter always digs the ordinance up this time of year. City Council President Lisa Rasmussen was fed up with Wausau getting pelted by bad press. The news story, she said, “keeps coming up like a bad penny.”
Time to change up the story.
The rest of Wausau’s brass felt equally frosted. So this year, the Wausau police department and Mayor Robert Mielke took the icy matter into their own hands and released a video of the cops and mayor having a snowball fight. Take a look.
Deputy Chief Matt Barnes is joined by Mayor Mielke to clear up some misconceptions about one of our local ordinances.
Posted by Wausau Police Department on Thursday, December 5, 2019
This went viral faster than a cold in kindergarten, and darned if Wausau’s willingness to have some fun at its own expense didn’t melt a lot of hearts. On the video Barnes declares once and for all that, “A fun snowball fight is a fun snowball fight,” and not a crime.
Easy for him to say—he’s a cop. (Barnes is pictured in the top photo at left, along with a dazed Mayor Robert Mielke. He was stunned by a direct snowball hit.)
But soon regular folks in Wausau will enjoy the same avalanche of fun when, as is expected, the law is tossed out at the next city council meeting.
The loss of freedom can be a slippery slope, especially when the rationale is safety. So hats (and mittens) off to Wausau’s wise women and men who refuse to let tyranny snowball.