PROVO When the weather outside is frightful, many Provo residents find it delightful to toss a few snowballs.
According to a little-known snowball ordinance, however, chucking Frosty around Provo isn't as innocent as it seems. In fact, an old-fashioned snowball fight could break the law.
"I don't think that many people know that when they pick up a snowball they are acting illegally," said Utah Valley State College student Jim McCloskey
McCloskey, originally from Maryland, said that he learned about the anti-snowball legislation two years ago when a police officer stopped a snowball fight he and his friends had started.
Although all parties involved had consented to the fight each had stockpiled their own arsenal of snow, if that counts McCloskey said the officer instructed them to put down their "projectiles" or he would arrest them.
Based on city code, the officer did the lawful thing. According to Provo city ordinance 9-14-101, "every person who shall . . . throw stock, stick, snowball or other missile whereby any person shall be hit . . . is guilty of a misdemeanor."
McCloskey asks how a snowball could be mentioned alongside missiles in the city ordinance book. He doesn't see anything dangerous about a snowball fight, even when the assailant is a good throw.
"Do the Provo police have nothing else to worry about?" asked Matt Lindstrom, who pitches a 92-mile-per-hour fastball for the Brooklyn Cyclones an A-team that feeds into the New York Mets.
While Lindstrom admits his speedy snowballs can leave shiners, he said the Provo law is still ridiculous. After all, he remembers Christmases in Rexburg, Idaho, that centered on flurry family fights.
"It's all in good fun," Lindstrom said. "If you get hurt, it's your parents' fault, not the police's problem."
City spokesman Mike Mower said that the snowball ordinance is only meant for those who have naughty not nice intentions when they throw snowballs.
As long as the balls are tossed carefully, he said, there should be no legal repercussions and no policemen to stop fair fights.
"If it's a couple of roommates hucking snowballs, I don't think the police care," said Mower, who calls the law a "common sense ordinance."
"But if you pummel a sweet co-ed with a big, icy snowball well, that's not very nice," he explained. "And we've got laws to prevent against not very nice."
McCloskey thinks that's reasonable. And he wants to hold Provo officials to those words.
As part of a UVSC public speaking class, McCloskey started a letter writing campaign, asking that the snowball ordinance be rewritten to permit consensual snowball fights and harmless snowball exchanges.
"It's like a game of pick-up basketball," McCloskey said. "If two parties agree to throw snowballs, then it should be OK."
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While he doesn't have an exact count, McCloskey said that nearly 40 letters sent to the mayor's office this month echoed a similar sentiment: Snowballs aren't weapons.
Mower said he hadn't seen any of the letters but didn't think the ordinance needed any more specifics. Even with recent snowstorms, the spokesman said that snow isn't the city's biggest problem due to an ongoing drought.
"Our goal this year is just to have enough snow for this to be a real issue," he joked.