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No matter who you are or how seriously you take yourself, chucking a pile of packed snow at someone has a way of bringing out your inner child. That’s exactly what happened this past Saturday when a dozen strangers who’d come across a “Denver Snowball Fights” social media page met at Cheesman Park to toss powder at each other. The only rule: have fun.
“My friend and I were always talking about how we enjoy ‘kid’ stuff, like tag,” says Daniel Nimitz, one of the participants in Saturday’s snowball fight. Nimitz, 26, moved to Denver three months ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He came across the Denver Snowball Fights event while scrolling through the Meetup app. “It reminded me of my best friend [back in Albuquerque]. And I was like, I bet I could make friends like my best friend if I go to something that I would like to do with her,” he says.
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None of the roughly dozen people who showed up for Saturday’s improvised snowball get-together at the Pavilion at Cheesman Park had ever met before, but everyone was trying to make new connections. And all of them were game to throw some snow.
The gathering was actually the third Denver Snowball Fights meetup to date. The events, which have been organized by Denverite Loren Hansen, started in January after groups across various Denver subreddits expressed interest in the idea of an epic snowball battle after the storm on January 24. “For me, the first meetup, there was a lot of catharsis that I felt,” Hansen says. “A lot of people said, ‘I felt like a kid again, it was like something that made me feel really happy and cool.’ ”
The original event snowballed into something bigger. “I wanted to keep that momentum going,” he says. Hansen, who works for the Colorado Department of Labor, also didn’t want the opportunity to form new connections to just be a one-off thing. So, after that first random gathering, he threw together a Denver Snowball Fights Facebook group, subreddit, and Meetup page, and began posting polls for folks to share when and where they might want to play after the next storm.
An almost entirely new group of strangers has shown up at each meetup (dozens in total now), according to Hansen. Some folks have even brought sleds, buckets, and other snow tools to help build things like snowmen and a giant Colorado flag.
This past Saturday, the sun was shining and someone’s electronic music echoed from the Pavilion. For the sake of transparency, I joined the fight; and for the sake of full transparency, I’m trash at anything involving hand-eye coordination, such as pegging someone with a shot of snowy ammunition. But none of that mattered.
Denver denizens of all ages joined in, and we started adding people as they arrived, either breaking into teams or switching to every man for themself. The group acknowledged that there were formal snowball fight rules we could abide by if we wanted, but keeping track of points feels foolish when you’re all getting schooled by a six year old—and sniped by his grandma, who brought him to the park that day for the fun. (I’m lookin’ at you, Claudia!)
“The whole point of this is fun, so there’s no pressure,” Aprile Denny, 32, says. Denny works as a home care provider. She heard about the snowball fights from someone at a different Meetup event and appreciated the easygoing nature.
“The dating Meetups, you’re all nervous and just want to look good. There’s like a pressure to hopefully, you know, appeal to somebody,” she says. “Whereas with this, it’s like, as long as you hit someone with a snowball that’s the whole point. That was fun. And then if you talk to people that’s good, too.”
Erin Meyer, a longtime Denverite and 46-year-old librarian for the U.S. Geological Survey Library, also joined in looking for a more laidback crew and an escape from the isolation of working from home four days a week. “I’m meeting a lot of other moms and parents. But they’re not necessarily the kind of folks who think it’s fun to drop everything and come play snowball [fight],” Meyer says. “I wanted a more playful crew … something that I could do that wasn’t going to be an all-day thing, where I can meet fun people.”
Our brief duel was really just an ice breaker; multiple people from the meetup eventually migrated to a nearby pub. Hansen says he hopes to keep the events going throughout the winter. The group might even add games like capture the flag to the mix.
“Just having that experience,” Hansen says, “where you can channel your inner kid, and you can do it as a very low cost thing and just meet new people is, especially in a pandemic, something that’s invaluable.”