Throwing a snowball is something that will normally get you in trouble.
But no one was enforcing that particular rule Saturday at McEuen Park in Coeur d’Alene as people gathered in an attempt to set a record for the world’s largest snowball fight.
The world record went unbroken, but an estimated 300 people showed up to throw snowballs at each other with gleeful abandon, making the event a success.
Dustin Ainsworth, who sits on the board of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, got the idea to put on the snowball fight partly as a way to get people downtown before the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“We had a lot more kids here than I expected,” he said.
He said the Coeur d’Alene Parks Department helped him get the permit he needed and allowed him to use the park.
“They allowed us to come in and do some clearing,” he said. “Without them, we couldn’t have done this.”
There wasn’t any cost to put on the event. All that was required was a can of bright-orange spray paint to mark the field of battle and a bullhorn to announce the start of the fight.
“I was right out in the middle of it,” Ainsworth said. “I got a few good shots in.”
Julie Blair brought her granddaughter to the event. They had been at the nearby playground and noticed the crowd gathering for the snowball fight. Blair said that snowball fights used to be commonplace, but now kids get in trouble if they throw snowballs at school.
Blair decided her granddaughter had to experience at least one snowball fight.
“I thought, she needs to do this,” she said. “I really did it for the new experience.”
It was also a great way to get out and enjoy the warm sunshine before the St. Patrick’s Day parade just a couple of blocks over. The recent warm weather melted a lot of the snow, however, leaving slush behind rather than ideal packing snow.
There were plenty of kids tossing snowballs, as one would expect, but there were also plenty of kids at heart with gray hair or beards. The adults grinned just as broadly as the kids, letting balls of packed slush fly.
Josef Dreps, 76, perfected the art of the sneak attack. He switched sides, threw stealthily from the sidelines and once went up behind a man and stuffed snow down the back of his shirt. He smiled the whole time, clearly having a lot of fun.
“When you’re as old as I am, you’ve got to take it where you can get it,” he said.
Like many people there, Dreps was wearing green in anticipation of attending the St. Patrick’s Day parade later.
“Snowballs at 3, parade at 4,” he said.
Bob Whitman drove in from the Silver Valley with his grandson, but it’s hard to tell which of them enjoyed the experience more. Every time Whitman let a snowball fly – which he did a lot – he giggled to himself from behind his gray beard. He said it brought him back to his childhood in upstate New York, where there was always plenty of snow in the winter.
“We used to make snowballs at the time and throw them,” he said.
By the time he was done, his hands were bright red.
“They’re a little cold, but it was worth it,” Whitman said. “You’ve got to stay young somehow.”
Whitman said he hopes the snowball fight becomes an annual event.
“I hope next time they get more (people), because they’re trying to break a record,” he said. “It was a bright sunny day for it. It was a lot of fun.”
While Coeur d’Alene didn’t get anywhere close to the world’s largest snowball fight of 7,681 participants in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in 2016, it still set a record, organizer Ainsworth insisted.
“This is the largest snowball fight to ever happen in North Idaho, period,” he said.
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