Feathers Fly in San Francisco Pillow Fight
The 2nd Annual Great San Francisco Pillow Fight takes flight for Valentine's Day
February 16, 2007 4:51 PM
Men and women from seemingly every walk of life gathered on Valentine's Day near San Francisco's Embarcadero to jubilantly beat the living daylights out of each other with pillows.
At 6 p.m., the second annual Great San Francisco Pillow Fight welcomed a mass of hundreds furiously using trickery and stealth to smack strangers and dates. Feathers blanketed the awesome scene as pillows arced and fell hard.
Frequently, a torn pillow would get shot in the air like a rocket, leaving behind a stream of feathers and down that floated down like snowfall. Every fifteen minutes a wave of cheer rumbled through the jubilant mob which triumphantly held pillows over their heads.
Sheer exhuberance drove one young shirtless man to exclaim to his friends that he had, in fact, "just thrown a pillow in Nancy Pelosi's face."
"This has been the high point of my life!" the unidentified man cried out "But, dude, she's tough."
Alas Pelosi, it was not. The woman in question, 47-years-old Gigi Benson-Smith, did look remarkably like the new Speaker of the House in a red two-piece tweed suit and pearl necklace.
"It's all fun and games," said Benson-Smith, who works at a law firm in the Financial District.
"Oh, I'm one of eight kids, the middle one so this brings me back," she said, while clutching a torn body pillow and digging her high heels into the ground soft and slippery with feathers and stuffing. "The heels help a little, to give me a better vantage point of view but they need to make more space so you can have more room to get a good swing."
Laughter and friendliness dominated the attitude of the pillow combatants. A well-placed headshot was always good for immediate retribution. Groups frequently ganged-up on some of the bigger pillow fighters.
In the light of the chaos, some took extra precautions. Glasses and watches were removed, except for a few who covered their eyes with goggles, and their mouths with t-shirts and bandanas in the air heavy with pillow innards.
Julia Baldassari-Hitchman, a 29-year-old recent SF State graduate, thought it might be a good idea to wear a bicycle helmet to guard against particularly nasty hits but the idea backfired.
"I heard that last year someone (was) packing way more than feather(s) in his pillow (but) it makes you an extra target and it hurts more," she said.
The second edition of the outdoor pillow fight easily outdrew and outlasted year’s event. Word-of-mouth and postings on blogs and websites like Craigslist.org alerted most people.
For Maureen Murray, 46, of San Francisco the occasion was a welcome relief from a difficult week and a chance to share a favorite childhood ritual with her daughter, Nora. The 10-year-old swung two pillows furiously, not afraid of hitting men and women twice her size.
“When I told my daughter about this, her eyes lit up and she said, ‘can we? Can we?’ I thought it was a perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and relieve some stress,” Murray said.
While couples taking turns whacking strangers’ heads seemed to dominated the crowd, single men like unemployed San Francisco native Don Kuhstoss, 41, came looking for a fun night in a youthful crowd.
“Just witnessing strangers having such a great time together, it’s good for people to act like proverbial children,” he said.
As the masses thinned out, workers from the Department of Public Works appeared, unhappily gauging the extent of the clean-up to come.
They had help from Amandeep Jawa, a San Francisco software engineer from Apple Inc., who used a megaphone to call on attendees to make piles of feathers. With the docks just across the street, here was an ordinary citizen having fun but also noting the impact of thousands of torn bedding.
"That's my fear," the 38-year-old said, "It contributes to the general pollution. The feathers are O.K. but the synthetics stuff is a bad idea for the bay.”
Then he grinned, turned to the crowd that remained on the edge of the plaza, safe from the pillow-wielding masses, and shouted in the megaphone, “This is not a spectator sport!”
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