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Snowball Fights Are OK In Wausau


The town of Wausau, Wis., feels it's gotten a bum rap from the media. Several news outlets reported that the place just wasn't fun because it had enacted anti-snowball fight legislation. Well, actually, the law was instituted way back in 1962 and is now being revised to exclude snowballs. And to make the point, the town taped a snowball fight between some Wausau cops, the mayor and the deputy chief of police.


MATT BARNES: A fun snowball fight is a fun snowball fight. And that's not something we enforce this ordinance with. On the other hand, throwing snowballs at people that may not want it...


BARNES: Oh, that one got away from me.

FADEL: And with that, the deputy police chief nailed Mayor Robert Mielke right in the back of the head.

You looked a little surprised by that one, Mr. Mayor.

ROBERT MIELKE: I honestly was. And good morning. I guess I was very surprised, but in a good way. It just showed that we have a sense of humor, have a sense of fun, if you will - change a negative into a positive.

FADEL: Yeah. Well, thank you for joining us. And, honestly, I don't know what people are talking about. Wausau looks pretty fun to me. Can you tell me a little bit about that original ordinance and how this all started?

MIELKE: Well, this got started back in 1962. And to be honest, most communities, from what I understand, including anybody around ours in the upper Midwest where there's snow, have the same type of law in their book. Really, it has not been enforced, as far as snowballs, for years. But really, it's to cover different things because we've had issues, as far as people using crossbows, or arrows get stuck in their neighbors' houses or trees. We've even had a gentleman that was throwing sandbags from park - top of one of our parking structures. It's really designed for something like that.

And I - from what I understand, I think the police have only ticketed somebody with a snowball throwing - and that's because it was thrown at cars - I think twice in the last 15, 20 years. So, I mean, it's not something the cops are looking for.

FADEL: So the law covers, as you said, any kind of projectile. And snowballs kind of got lumped in there. And the reaction Wausau got when news organizations improperly reported about it - talk to me about that.

MIELKE: Initially, it was very disturbing because we got phone calls and emails from around the country, all of whom I answered personally. And really, there's only one gentleman in Ohio that's still mad at us.

FADEL: What were people saying in the emails and phone calls?

MIELKE: The majority just misunderstood and had their comments and their thoughts. Some were vulgar. One or two was actually kind of threatening. And some of them were quite nasty. And, again, it's for something that just wasn't true, a story that was basically created by different members of the media. And we were just surprised by it.

But that Thursday, I woke up, and I was talking with our chief of police, Ben Bliven, who's a great guy, and we kind of share the same sense of humor. And we were just kind of talking back-and-forth. You know, we should do something fun and positive with this but try to get our point across, too. And he came up with the idea as far as a snowball fight. I was surprised when I got hit. I guess I'm up for a best supporting actor because I acted like I got dinged on the head pretty good.

FADEL: And how widely was this video viewed?

MIELKE: I understand that there's something like 600,000 or 700,000 likes or shares or something like that. I know myself - I've had fun with the police department before. A number of years ago, I volunteered getting tased. And I can tell you that'll never happen again.

The hit that I took - honest to gosh, folks - it was not planned. It was not choreographed. One take, if you want to call it. And I think even the deputy chief was surprised at the velocity. He's got a good arm. I got to give him that.

FADEL: Robert Mielke is the mayor of Wausau, Wis. Thanks for speaking with us.

MIELKE: Thank you so much. Happy new year to you.

FADEL: Happy new year.


BARNES: Boy, that was a fastball at close range.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.