Pillow Fight!!

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by Leah Glazer

2011 International Pillow Fight Day in New York's Union Square

I followed a trail of floating feathers from the 14th Street subway stop to Union Square this past Saturday.  The sun beamed down on a roaring mass of people flailing about the park’s lampposts and statues.

Feathers and stuffing clung to people’s hair, suede boots, and lollipop- themed footsie pajamas.  Pillows twirled through the air and chicken fights scurried through the crowds while Greenman and a man dressed as a cat quarreled with pillows.

by Leah Glazer

 


 

I followed a trail of floating feathers from the 14th Street subway stop to Union Square last Saturday.  The sun beamed down on a roaring mass of people flailing about the park’s lampposts and statues.  Feathers and stuffing clung to people’s hair, suede boots, and lollipop- themed footsie pajamas.  Pillows twirled through the air and chicken fights scurried through the crowds while Greenman and a man dressed as a cat quarreled with pillows.

2011 International Pillow Fight Day in New York's Union Square

This melee, known as International Pillow Fight Day, took park in Newmindspace’s urban playground movement.  Newmindspace is a group that organizes free, fun, all ages public events around the world.  The movement’s goals are to make these unique events a part of popular culture. As stated on their website, “Partially replacing passive, non-social consumption experiences like watching television, and consciously celebrating public spaces like our cities as our ‘urban living rooms.’”

Kevin Bracken and Lori Kufner co-founded Newmindspace five years ago.  They split their time between New York and Toronto, Canada and coordinate free, wacky events, such as Blanket Festivus — a complex 5,000 square foot maze of blanket forts in Toronto where bedtime stories, art installations and late night snacks are shared through the night.

Another popular event organized by Newmindspace is Capture the Flag.  This fast-paced chasing game runs along Toronto’s Financial District, turning the area into a massive playground as thousands run, seek and hide behind skyscrapers and inside tunnels.

 

 

Last year’s Light Saber Battle took place in both Toronto and New York.  Over 500 Jedi and Sith sabers fought for both sides of the force.  Newmindspace encouraged participants to use LED lightstabers, and blacklight-reactive paint was welcomed.

 

 

Last year’s Light Saber Battle took place in both Toronto and New York.  Over 500 Jedi and Sith sabers fought for both sides of the force.  Newmindspace encouraged participants to use LED lightstabers, and blacklight-reactive paint was welcomed.

Over 1,000 people gathered in Times Square last year to blow millions of bubbles for another event, Bubble Bath.  This calming and nostalgic festivity was inspired by the Dr. Seuss book, The Butter Battle Book.  Attendants brought devices from old-fashioned bubble wands to modern-day bubble guns.

Despite the dozens of events Newmindspace offers, International Pillow Fight Day seems to be the most popular.  Over 130 cities participated in this year’s brawl, and 5,000 joined the battle in Union Square alone.  The event, scheduled to run in New York from 3-6pm, was shut down by city officials and authorities a half hour early.  Landscapers were sent in with leaf blowers to start what was thought to be the removal process of feathers, but the Union Square employees enjoyed their share of fun by feathing participants outside of the fenced off areas with the aid of leaf blowers.  When members of the fight ignored the leaf blowers, police officers entered the fighting arena and escorted the fighters out, quickly wrapping up the pillow fight at 5:39pm.

When the out of breath, stress-relieved crowd left Union Square, authorities blocked off all entrances to the park. A mother and her toddler were denied access to the sitting area of the Square by Union workers who said the cleanup process wouldn’t permit anyone inside.  The police were not willing to give out any quotes as to why the fight was shut down early.  They blocked off all entrances by standing with their shoulders pushed forward and arms crossed in an intimidating way that said, “I will arrest you if you even brush that pillow against me.”  Which is exactly what happened two years ago at New York’s International Pillow Fight Day.

2009′s fight was held along Wall Street and was far more cramped than this year’s battle.  Police weren’t organized in barricading the fight, and they took it upon themselves to enter the intense duelings.  When one woman allegedly hit a police officer with her pillow, she was taken into custody.  The arrest was supposed to turn the fight into a sour event, but it only caused the crowd of over 1,000 people to join forces and press for her freedom by chanting, “Let her go!”

“It’s crazy,” said third year Pillow Fight alumnus Benjamin Jacob, “We’re all here to just have a good time.”

This year’s crowd knew how to have fun while being considerate to photographers and onlookers.  In past fights, members would gang up on any individual without a pillow, however, on Saturday, participants made a point to not only withhold from hitting a person without a pillow, but notified others surrounding him or her to not attack.  Partakers also helped fallen individuals and would take a second to ask if one was alright after an accidental blow to the face.

“It was crazier than I expected,” said first-time Pillow Fighter Alyse of Long Island, “but I had an awesome time and I’ll be back next year.”

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