The huge snowstorm that struck Washington, D.C. and much of the eastern seaboard 10 February left many area residents with little to do. But in the capital of the United States, there was the option of an organized snowball fight.
VOA writer and reporter Michael Lipin organized Wednesday's event, and a previous one Saturday, 6 February, that drew about 2,000 people in Washington's Dupont Circle. He came up with the idea during the winter's first major snowstorm on 19 December.
"I created a Facebook group for the first time because I wanted to invite my friends to a snowball fight," he said. "Rather than send an e-mail, where you would cut and paste 100 addresses, I thought well, I have a Facebook account, and the invitation goes out to all the people in your profile." Only six people came to that original snowball fight in December.
But when the second big storm hit 6 February, Michael Lipin adjusted his publicity methods. "I sent out more invitations on my Facebook group," he said. "I asked a friend, Ami Greener, to help me spread the word out to his friends, and we thought, 'why don't we send some tweets out using Twitter?'"
The tweets worked. "Thursday morning we had 33 members in the group," said Lipin. "By the end of Thursday, 1,000, by the end of Friday, 4,000. By the time the snowball fight started on February 6th, [there were] more than 5,000 in the group."
The snowball fight is designed to combat cabin fever, the syndrome when people are cooped up too long in one place without contact with others. It is also open to participants of all ages.
"There were people posting messages on the group wall on Facebook who were in the 40s and 50s saying, 'We were there and we felt like kids again we had such a great time,'" said Lipin. "So it wasn't just a case of teenagers, 20-somethings taking part, this was a broad range of people, and it indicated to me that this is something that all age groups can enjoy and take part in, and something more interesting to do on a snow day."