By most accounts, the aftermath resembled an explosion in a Play-Doh factory - hardened goo in hues of orange, pink and blue stuck fast to everything that makes Southington's town square a perfect New England snapshot.
Kids of many ages wreaked havoc at the Apple Harvest Festival one weekend four months ago with Silly String, a nontoxic, chemical toy twine launched from aerosol cans.Now Southington figures that if you can't beat 'em, enjoin 'em. It's ready to outlaw the stuff under most circumstances and smack a $99 fine on anyone, kid or adult, caught with it.
"This product has no legitimate use," Police Chief William Perry, who requested the ban, said sternly. "It's being manufactured and sold with one purpose in mind - to annoy other people."
Last week, after a town meeting ended with citizens arguing Silly String's virtues, the council kicked back the original "Objectionable Products Ordinance" for revision to avoid making petty criminals of people who use it in their homes.
It wasn't just the sprayed shop windows and the shellacked sidewalks that rankled anti-stringers. Classic cars left the festival's parade with corroded paint. Marching band members - and their uniforms and instruments - got spritzed. Two motorcycle cops, bombarded by a neon-colored fusillade, nearly ran off the road.
Some residents say they fear that some of the festival's hundreds of visitors might not come back.
"This isn't like firearms, which have certain constitutional protections," said David Kelley, the town attorney. "There is absolutely no constitutional right for something like this."
The no-string contingent claims broad support and says it's natural to ban what amounts to training-wheels for spray-painting vandals.
But it's difficult to find anyone on Southington's streets who doesn't think the law - and the taxpayer time spent prattling about it - is sillier than the string.
"If they were walking around dumping cups of water on people, would they ban water? It's ridiculous," said a local store owner.