pillow.jpgTo most, Valentine’s Day means flowers, candy and kisses. But, to many San Franciscans, the approaching holiday has them thinking about feathers.

This Monday marks the sixth Great San Francisco Pillow Fight, which has attracted thousands of revelers to Justin Herman Plaza year after year.

“Tons of people just wait out in front of the Ferry Building,” former participant and San Francisco resident Issac Wexman said. “Basically, everyone is standing there in silence until 6 o’clock hits. Then it’s just madness.”

Despite the legacy that the fight has gathered, no one seems to know how it started or who the organizers are.

Wexman, 23, said that he is not certain there even is a mastermind behind it all.

“There is just a mass of people,” he said. “I don’t even know if there is a singular organizer, but it has really gained momentum.”

The Department of Public Works has been trying to track down the elusive organizers in hopes that they might repay their debt to the city.

Gloria Chan, Department of Public Works spokeswoman, said that the clean-up costs have amounted to about $35,000 each year.

“No one has ever applied for an event permit and we have not located the organizers,” Department of Public Works spokeswoman Gloria Chan said.

“Any organized event is supposed to apply for a permit to ensure a responsible, successful and safe event,” Chan said. “There’s a reason for the procedure. We hope that they come forward and begin that process.”

“Of course, it leaves feathers everywhere,” Chan said. “Feathers get scrunched in the tiniest corners and cracks. And when they get wet they require extra supplies to get rid of.”

In an attempt to mitigate the waste left behind, Pillows for Puppies–a New York-based group that sprung from concerned community members–will be collecting pillows and handing out trash bags in the aftermath of the fight.

The pillows will be donated to pets at local homeless shelters as well as churches in the area, organization spokeswoman Jennifer Small said.

“We’ve found that the community really steps up if they are given the basic materials,” Small said. “That’s really just the kick that people need.”

Small said that, although this is the group’s first year in San Francisco, volunteers have appeared at similar events across the nation, including a similar pillow fight staged in New York.

“We left New York sparkling and came away with 1,000 pillows,” Small said. “We are importing ourselves to San Francisco this Valentine’s day to make sure the same thing happens.”

Kristen Peters, Bay City News

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  • JenSmall

    Pillows for Puppies coordinated 30 volunteers who stayed until 10:30pm
    cleaning the plaza, along with dozens of helpers who were happy to
    fill a bag with fluff before heading home. We filled 150 big trash
    bags with the stuffing from burst pillows and left much less work for
    the city employees. We left a very light smattering of feathers,
    rather than the usual 4-6 inches of fluff, feathers, and empty
    pillowcases. Next year we’re bringing power washers of our own –
    that’s all there was left to do!

    Clean up costs for the city dropped ninety percent, from $35,000 in
    2010 to $3,500 in 2011, according to Gloria Chan of the DPW.

    However, Chan did not credit us! Aww! This ninety percent reduction is due directly to our amazing volunteers and the participation of pillow fighters in cleaning up after themselves when
    offered trash bags and loving encouragement to pick up.

    Pictures of the wonderfully clean Justin Herman Plaza:
    http://pillowsforpuppies.tumblr.com/

  • JenSmall

    Pillows for Puppies coordinated 30 volunteers who stayed until 10:30pm
    cleaning the plaza, along with dozens of helpers who were happy to
    fill a bag with fluff before heading home. We filled 150 big trash
    bags with the stuffing from burst pillows and left much less work for
    the city employees. We left a very light smattering of feathers,
    rather than the usual 4-6 inches of fluff, feathers, and empty
    pillowcases. Next year we’re bringing power washers of our own –
    that’s all there was left to do!

    Clean up costs for the city dropped ninety percent, from $35,000 in
    2010 to $3,500 in 2011, according to Gloria Chan of the DPW.

    However, Chan did not credit us! Aww! This ninety percent reduction is due directly to our amazing volunteers and the participation of pillow fighters in cleaning up after themselves when
    offered trash bags and loving encouragement to pick up.

    Pictures of the wonderfully clean Justin Herman Plaza:
    http://pillowsforpuppies.tumblr.com/

  • SFRecandPark

    We appreciate the help of Pillows for Puppies, and no doubt their assistance helped us keep the cleanup costs down. However, one of the main reasons the costs have gone down dramatically is that the Recreation and Parks (the actual owner and operator of Justin Herman Plaza) has stepped up the past 2 years (this year will be year 3) to take care of the cleanup of our property. So DPW is now only cleaning up the streets and sidewalks, while my staff is taking care of the Plaza itself.
    As RPD has been suffering major budget cuts year after year, we have had no alternative but to become as efficient and effective as humanly possible. Last year we brought our own volunteers with us, as well as paid custodial staff and a custodial supervisor. They accomplished the cleanup and only incurred an additional $1500 in costs for this event – quite a decrease fron the astronomical figures quoted from previous years!
    Recreation and Parks is gearing up again for the annual pillow fight. We welcome any and all volunteers who would like to stay and help us clean up – we’ll provide gloves and bags and assorted tools. Thanks!

  • SFRecandPark

    We appreciate the help of Pillows for Puppies, and no doubt their assistance helped us keep the cleanup costs down. However, one of the main reasons the costs have gone down dramatically is that the Recreation and Parks (the actual owner and operator of Justin Herman Plaza) has stepped up the past 2 years (this year will be year 3) to take care of the cleanup of our property. So DPW is now only cleaning up the streets and sidewalks, while my staff is taking care of the Plaza itself.
    As RPD has been suffering major budget cuts year after year, we have had no alternative but to become as efficient and effective as humanly possible. Last year we brought our own volunteers with us, as well as paid custodial staff and a custodial supervisor. They accomplished the cleanup and only incurred an additional $1500 in costs for this event – quite a decrease fron the astronomical figures quoted from previous years!
    Recreation and Parks is gearing up again for the annual pillow fight. We welcome any and all volunteers who would like to stay and help us clean up – we’ll provide gloves and bags and assorted tools. Thanks!