The Mall erupts in an atypical kind of Washington infighting — a pillow fight

April 6, 2013

Others may have had visions of cherry blossoms dancing in their heads, but on Saturday Danny Gonzalez was leading a motley crew of adults and children along 15th Street and Constitution Avenue spoiling for a fight.

A pillow fight.

“We’ll fight to the last feather,’’ declared one of the kids in the posse led by Gonzalez, a 43-year-old IT consultant from Washington. The kid waved a white pillow above his head and the others whooped in agreement.

Then, promptly at 3 p.m. on the grassy field on the west side of the Washington Monument, the pillows began to fly.

The crowd was so thick and chaotic, it was impossible to discern who took the first swat, but once contact was made, there was no turning back. There seemed to be no rules, though organizers did forbid the use of feather pillows to avoid a mess.


Jane Mazzone wields her pillow while piggyback riding on Charlie Carper, both from the District. (Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST)

This is the sixth year for the international pillow fighting event, called Pillow Fight Day, with participants in the nation’s capital joining brethren in Atlanta, Quebec City, Boston, Barcelona, Sacramento and more than a dozen other cities around the world, according to the event’s Web site. The pillow fights are part of the Urban Playground Movement — an effort to energize public spaces.

“Sequester? Budget Cuts? Pink slips? Stupid politicians?” read a blurb on the event’s Washington page. “Yep, we got ’em all here. . . . So grab your pillows ladies and gents. It’s time to take it all out on your pillow . . . and random strangers.”

Indeed, participants arrived with many strategies.

“Just start swinging,” a mother told her young son.

One father pulled his teenage son aside and offered this gem, before pushing his son into the fray:

“Go find a pretty girl and hit her with a pillow.”

The crowd in Washington was colorful and diverse. Moms with sons, dads with daughters, a grown man in blue footie pajamas, a woman in a white tutu, a woman dressed as a giant banana. And the pillows — oh, the pillows! Standard white, yes, but also polka dot, purple and Angry Bird.

A pillow fight broke out on the National Mall as part of Pillow Fight Day, an effort by the Urban Playground Movement to energize public spaces. (Lori Aratani/The Washington Post)

“It’s a ‘tee-hee’ kind of thing,” said Jayne Mazzone of Northeast, who broke out her white tutu and red face paint for the event. “Everybody has a childish side.”

Before joining the bedlam, Alexandra Boos, a model from Alexandria, donned the same eye black generally associated with NFL players.

Bruce Schaefer and his wife, Renee Schaefer, drove in from Silver Spring to watch the fight. Standing on the sidelines, he snapped picture after picture, while she laughed in delight.

“The cherry blossoms aren’t ready yet, so we came for this,” said Bruce Schaeffer, who is retired. “It’s a big international thing — and it’s certainly a Kodak moment.”

About a half-hour later, Gonzalez and his ragtag group emerged from the scrum — but without their pillows.

In all battles, there are casualties. Pillow fights, it seems, are no different.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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