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Mass Pillow Fight Turns Washington into Urban Playground


Hundreds of people gathered in more than 100 cities around the world this month to celebrate International Pillow Fight Day.

For the eighth year in a row, participants turned seemingly-normal public spaces into urban playgrounds, battling each other with soft and fluffy weapons and creating spectacles for those around them.

In Washington, a group of young professionals known as Capitol Improv used Facebook to organize a mass pillow fight on the National Mall for the sixth consecutive year.

At precisely 2 pm on a bright Saturday afternoon, dozens of the group's followers ran toward each other on a patch of grass between the Washington Monument and the National World War II Memorial, waving pillows in the air and yelling at the top of their voices.

The April 5 battle had begun, much to the surprise of the many other people who were in the park to enjoy the nice weather, unaware that a mass pillow fight was about to break out around them.

Pillow fighting's popularity


Oscar Soto, Capitol Improv's lead organizer, was impressed with the turnout, saying the event drew more than 500 local and international students, professionals and parents with kids.

He says the universal appeal of pillow fights has been the key to making them an annual tradition.

"Everyone remembers being a little kid and doing them," Soto said. "Now, when everyone gets older, especially in a place like D.C. where it is really stressful, the idea of being able to go to a pillow fight and just unleash the beast is too addicting to let go."

Similar scenes unfolded on the same day in dozens of other cities in the United States, Europe and Asia, with organizers creating more urban playgrounds through the International Pillow Fight Day website. The event typically is held in early April.

Soto hopes the urban playground movement will spread further.

"If you want to do a pillow fight in your city, just go to pillowfightday.com and get it started," he said. "It’s happening all around the world, and you should be a part of it too."

Ann Curl, a Nashville, Tennessee resident who stumbled on the pillow fight while visiting Washington for a disability conference, said she likes the idea.

"I have a son with autism who would love to be in an organized pillow fight," Curl said.

New experiences

Some of the participants said they had never before joined a mass pillow fight. They included a group of Chinese graduate students at George Washington University.

One of them, a 24-year-old woman from Guangzhou in southern China, brought more than a dozen of her Chinese friends to the fight, to celebrate her birthday.

"It’s the first time I've seen a big event like this," she said. "It’s so exciting, and it’s very interesting. People, no matter if they know each other or not, are just fighting each other."

Two other first-time pillow fighters, friends Rachel Zabriskie and Meredith Berry from northern Virginia, said they had fun.

"It’s not very often you get to go whack people with pillows, or with anything," said Zabriskie.

"And in the middle of Washington!" added Berry.

Another two pillow fighters entered the battle in costumes and became instant targets for everyone around them. One dressed as a banana and the other as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters.

After surviving repeated onslaughts, the costumed young men exchanged greetings, but vowed to continue their rivalry to be the center of attention next year.

They may get their chance. Capitol Improv hopes to stage its seventh Washington pillow fight in April 2015. Its other annual events include a No Pants Metro Ride held every January, and a SurviveDC game of tag through the streets of Washington in May.

Mia Simon contributed to this report as video editor.
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