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A snowball fight is a physical game in which balls of snow are thrown with the intention of hitting somebody else. The game is similar to dodgeball in its major factors, though typically less organized. This activity is primarily played during winter when there is sufficient snowfall.
In 1472, the city council of Amsterdam allegedly prohibited snowball fights for reasons of public safety, a prohibition which occasionally finds its way into lists of strange laws. The law, if it ever existed, is not presently enforced.
Several localities have passed ordinances prohibiting snowball fights, typically as part of a larger prohibition on thrown missiles. In 2018, the town council of Severance, Colorado unanimously overturned one such ban after hearing from a local youth. Similarly, after its "snowball ordinance" became the subject of national news coverage, the city of Wausau, Wisconsin chose to remove the word "snowball" from a list of dangerous objects specifically prohibited from being thrown on public property.
Large snowball fights
During the American Civil War, on January 29, 1863, the largest military snow exchange occurred in the Rappahannock Valley in Northern Virginia. What began as a few hundred men from Texas plotting a friendly fight against their Arkansas camp mates soon escalated into a brawl that involved 9,000 soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia.
In his memoir of the American Civil War, Samuel H. Sprott describes a snowball battle that occurred early in 1864 involving the Army of Tennessee. Sprott states that the fight started when Strahl’s Brigade was attacked by a brigade of Breckenridge’s Division, but soon other brigades became involved, and ultimately five or six thousand men were engaged.
On January 29, 2005, a crowd of 3,027 people gathered in the town of Wauconda, Illinois for a snowball fight organized by Bill Lutz, with the town receiving a mention in the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records.
On December 9, 2009, an estimated crowd of over 4,000 students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison participated in a snowball fight on Bascom Hill. There were reports of several injuries, mainly broken noses, and a few incidences of vandalism, mainly stolen lunch trays from Memorial Union. The snowball fight was scheduled weeks in advance, and was helped by the fact that the University canceled all classes due to 12–16 inches of snow that fell the night before. However, this snowball fight failed to break the record set in October of the same year in Leuven.
On February 6, 2010, some 2,000 people met at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.. for a snowball fight organized over the internet after over two feet of snow fell in the region during the North American blizzards of 2010. The event was promoted via Facebook and Twitter. At least a half-dozen D.C. and U.S. Park police cars were positioned around Dupont Circle throughout the snowball fight. Minor injuries were reported.
Seattle's world record was broken on January 31, 2016 in Saskatoon, Canada, where more than 20,000 participants came to Victoria park to attempt the Guinness World Record. Rick Mercer was one of the participants who came to shoot an episode about Team Canada's Yukigassen team and compete in the world record. Underestimating the number of participants the event ran out of their 8200 wristbands hours before the competition took place. In total 7,681 participants was the official Guinness record and was achieved by the City of Saskatoon thanks to Yukigassen Team Canada.
However, historical studies of snowball fights point to Leuven, Belgium as the actual snowball capital of the world. A recent snowball fight there (on October 14, 2009) broke the world record for the largest snowball fight ever recorded in history. Students from the University of Pennsylvania helped create and fund this fight which reached 5,768 participants, the largest yet recorded.
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- "Agenten en jongeren houden sneeuwballengevecht in Amsterdam" [Police officers and young people have a snowball fight in Amsterdam]. De Standaard (in Dutch). 8 February 2021. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
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