Once reserved for sleep-away camps and slumber parties, the pillow fight is now a fluffy part of a global social movement.
On Saturday, the sixth annual Pillow Fight Day will kick off at sites around world — from Abu Dhabi to Zurich, and the nation's front yard.
"There's yet to be a day it doesn't catch people off guard," said Oscar Soto, lead organizer for Capitol Improv, which is sponsoring the bedding battle in the District.
Pillow Fight Day's official website states the contest is part of a larger "urban playground movement" that encourages other free public parties and events with a goal "to make these unique happenings in public space become a significant part of popular culture."
The first international pillow fight was held March 22, 2008, and 26 cities participated, many of them in the United States. In New York, several thousand people came out to whack each other with the stuffed squares.
The official website, which states that there's "nobody who can speak for the whole world," has a list of how-to suggestions for groups looking to host a pillow fight, such as conducting the encounter in a downtown area close to public transportation and avoiding Sundays, which can limit participation due to hangovers from the previous night.
As for participants, the idea is to enjoy the free cost and freestyle organization of the fight.
"Imagine that in any large city, anywhere on the face of the Earth, there may someday be free, fun, massive public events like pillow fights, creative interventions, games and interactive art installations on every day of the year," the site states.
The District's first pillow fight also took place in 2008, but it wasn't hosted by Capitol Improv.
"We didn't sponsor it the first year, but the very next year we put our name in," Mr. Soto said. "It felt like a good fit."
Capitol Improv, Mr. Soto said, has a similar mission, in that the group has been responsible for various pranks and events around the city since 2007, like the No Pants Ride on Metro and snowball fights in the winter.
While the pillow fight's location has flipped between Dupont Circle and the Mall, Mr. Soto said the decision was made to keep it on the Mall.
Mr. Soto said police don't have a problem with the event, and in turn, fighters are asked not to bring down pillows.
"Everyone wants that whole 'exploding pillow' [experience], but with the National Mall, we prefer you don't do that," Mr. Soto said.
In case of feathers, however, the group brings trash bags to clean up after the fight, which usually runs about two hours.
For the uninitiated, Mr. Soto recommends that if you wear glasses, take them off, and if you're bringing young children, wait for the fight to start and then stick to the perimeter to avoid the more feisty center.
"It's popular with families and the rest are just stragglers who saw us online," he said, adding that there's been an occasion or two where a lucky person has been walking through the Mall toting a pillow for totally unrelated reasons.
"The best thing is we try to keep the prank aspect of it alive," Mr. Soto said, who advised that participants do their best to hide the pillows in bags before the fight.
And for anyone thinking a seat atop someone's shoulders will help make it easier to survey the battle, be warned.
"The tallest, highest person is the one everybody aims for," Mr. Soto said. "Do it at your own peril. It's usually every man for himself."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Pillow Fight Day
WHEN: Saturday, 2 p.m.
WHERE: The Mall between the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument (17th Street Southwest between Constitution Avenue Southwest and Independence Avenue Southwest)
WHAT TO BRING: A pillow (no down pillows — the feathers make a mess)
For more information visit the International Pillow Fight Day 2014 — Washington, DC Facebook page.
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