This week, a 9-year-old boy threw the first “legal” snowball in Severance, Colorado. It was the culmination of a campaign that Dane Best had led to repeal a nearly century-old ban on snowball throwing in Severance, a town of about 6,000 people about 50 miles north of Denver.
There was no snow on the ground outside Town Hall on Monday night. But after the Town Board’s trustees were swayed by Dane’s presentation, members of the town staff presented a snowball preserved in a freezer to Dane. Then, before a scrum of television cameras and reporters, he leaned back and hurled the snowball into the air.
At the mayor’s office Tuesday morning, Dane fielded calls from news outlets from around the world with his mother, Brooke Best.
He had been up late the night before taping an appearance for “Good Morning America” and had also been featured in local newspapers and USA Today as well as on National Public Radio and several television networks.
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In an interview with The New York Times, he gave a succinct explanation of his motivation for civic engagement.
“Because snowball fights are fun in the winter,” he said.
To be sure, it is not entirely clear whether snowball fights in particular were illegal in Severance — at least not in the past decade or so — but the town encouraged Dane’s participation in local government.
Dane’s campaign began in October during a third-grade class trip to Town Hall, an annual educational exercise meant to teach students at Range View Elementary school about governance.
“The mayor told us about crazy laws,” Dane said, including the one forbidding snowball throwing.
The ordinance in question, approved sometime in the 1920s, is Chapter 2, Section 13 of the original town charter, which prohibited the throwing of projectiles.
But in 2007, the town simplified the language when the laws were posted online, said Kyle Rietkerk, the assistant to the Severance town administrator. He said town officials are searching for printed documents that may have included original language classifying snowballs as offensive objects.
The current version of the ordinance still precludes the throwing of stones or missiles. It states:
“It is unlawful for any person to throw or shoot any stone or any other missile upon or at any person, animal, building, tree or other public or private property; or at or against any vehicle or equipment designed for the transportation of persons or property.”
Mayor Donald McLeod acknowledged the town had never enforced the ban, and didn’t know what the actual penalty would be.
“My boys have been breaking this ordinance for nine years,” Brooke Best said.
But because of Dane’s efforts, there has been an official recognition that snowballs are no longer an offensive object. On Monday night, Dane was dressed in a peach-collared shirt and bow tie borrowed from his father when he presented his case — including 20 letters from his classmates and teacher — before about 150 people at Town Hall.
“I was nervous,” he said.
During his Power Point presentation, which lasted about five minutes, he decried the law as outdated.
“Today kids need reasons to play outside,” he said. “The children of Severance want the opportunity to have a snowball fight like the rest of the world.”
The Town Board trustees voted unanimously to lift whatever ban there might have been on snowballs, and a crowd broke out in applause. The mayor also awarded Dane a plaque, and a gift card to buy a snowball maker.
Asked what he learned about government through this process, Dane said: “You can change laws. It doesn’t matter how old you are. You can have a voice in your town.”
Dane also made clear who would first feel the effect of his newfound freedom to legally throw a snowball: his 4-year-old brother.