News Column

Portland Pillow Fight Is for Kids of All Ages

April 4, 2013

Ray Routhier

Conor Tubbs is banking on his expectation that a giant outdoor pillow fight will attract certain kinds of people.

"I don't think you'll get angry people saying, 'I've got to go to that pillow fight, " said Tubbs, 26, an organizer of the first Portland Pillow Fight Day in Monument Square. "It's just a fun, quirky thing to do on a Saturday afternoon."

And hopefully, for safety's sake, the folks who turn out at 3 p.m. Saturday will have read up on the phenomenon known as International Pillow Fight Day, a social media-driven event that has prompted groups in dozens of cities around the world to organize flash mob-style outdoor pillow fights in the past five years or so.

They'll know, then, not to bring feather pillows (too messy), hard pillows (too hard) or thoughts of mayhem (too scary).

"When we first started, some people were a little rough, but now we inspect the pillows to make sure they're soft enough," said Nick Carlisle, a member of Banditos Misteriosos, organizer of the yearly Boston Pillow Fight Day, which dates back to 2007. "But basically, it's low-key and we don't really have any problems."

A low-key pillow fight?

That's what Tubbs and his co-workers at Portland's Dispatch Magazine -- the official organizers of Portland Pillow Fight Day -- hope to have. Tubbs, a writer for the events-focused magazine, is hoping for a crowd of 100 or more, including families with children, who can have a safe, fun time doing something that seems to be catching on around the world.

The International Pillow Fight Day website (2013.pillowfightday.com) lists information on more than 65 cities that will host pillow fights Saturday in places as far off as Istanbul, Sydney and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Closer to home, pillow fights are planned for New York City, Philadelphia and Halifax, Nova Scotia, in addition to Portland.

Some are like flash mobs, with the time and place announced the day before or the day of. Others, like Portland's, are advertised in advance with a set time and place.

The team at Dispatch Magazine has been advertising the event, and has a permit from the city to use Monument Square. Organizers are also paying for a security team and a paramedic unit -- just in case.

"First and foremost, we want this to be safe," said Tubbs.

It's hard to say who might show up for a giant outdoor pillow fight. You'd figure people who like pillows, maybe.

Or maybe folks who make pillows. Like, say, a group from Cuddledown, a Yarmouth-based pillow and comforter maker.

A team of Cuddledown employees will be at the pillow fight Saturday with their "Pillow Ninjas" -- folks who apparently are experts in the ancient art of pillow fighting. The team has been training for the event at the Cuddledown facility.

With more than 100 employees, Cuddledown has been making pillows, comforters and featherbeds in Maine for 40 years. It has a store in Freeport, and sells nationwide through catalogs and online.

In short, these people know pillows.

"From what I've seen of the videos from larger cities, it tends to be a pretty hilarious event," said Danielle Vayenas, a public relations representative for Cuddledown. "A lot of us here are curious to see one in person."

Tubbs told city officials he expects 100 to 200 people for the event, said Nicole Clegg, the city's spokeswoman. Clegg said Dispatch Magazine has agreed to pay for any costs associated with the event, including security and cleanup.

After the pillow fight, participants and spectators will be encouraged to attend a party at the nearby Asylum nightclub, Tubbs said.

The staff at Dispatch Magazine got the idea for Portland's pillow fight after hearing about pillow fights around the world. Managing Editor Katy Kelleher had attended the Boston fight a few times, and thought one would work well in Portland.

"It's such a big event with a chaotic premise, but it ends up being very peaceful," said Kelleher of Boston's pillow fights, which attract hundreds of people.

Carlisle, the organizer in Boston, said International Pillow Fight Day is part of the so-called urban playground movement, in which people use public spaces for mass recreational gatherings. The Boston group, for instance, has organized giant water gun fights and silent dances.

International Pillow Fight Day has been "super underground," Tubbs said, without much media hype.

The folks who run the International Pillow Fight Day website give little information about who they are. They suggest pillow fight organizers not reserve space nor notify public officials. That makes the events less fun, apparently.

They did post a handy "How to Organize a Massive Pillow Fight" guide, complete with sample rules:

--Soft pillows only.

--Swing lightly; many people will be swinging at once.

--Remove glasses beforehand.

--Wait until the signal to begin.

Tubbs said security and Dispatch Magazine staffers will watch to make sure those rules are followed Saturday and the fighting is, well, not really fighting.

"And no feather pillows -- that's a big one," said Tubbs. "We don't want to leave a mess."



Source: (c)2013 the Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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