pillow.jpgA Valentine’s Day battle had feathers flying at the eighth annual “Great San Francisco Pillow Fight” this evening.

Hundreds of participants armed with pillows filled Justin Herman Plaza at the foot of Market Street waiting for the Ferry Building clock to strike 6 p.m. to begin the fight.

One couple celebrating nine months since their wedding was waiting at the outskirts of the crowd to join in on the fight. They had purchased goggles to protect themselves from the clumps of feathers floating through the air and whacks to the head.

Oakland resident David Hamill, 39, surprised his wife, Faith, 34, with Valentine’s plans to battle it out with pillows.

“I was looking for something fun to do for Valentine’s Day,” he said.

Organizers reminded participants to only hit those with pillows themselves, a rule attendees appeared to be following.

Angel Gonzalez, up from San Diego to celebrate his 25th birthday on Friday, joined the fight on a whim. His hair was covered in feathers.

“It’s exhausting,” he said, emerging from the center of the fight.

He noted his strategy was to do the “helicopter,” which he demonstrated as swinging his pillow above his head and taking out everyone around him.

He said the best part of the fight was “bashing each other,” but that “it’s all out of love.”
A mother-daughter team from Sebastopol came prepared with strategy.

“We thought of it as the ‘Hunger Games’,” 18-year-old Grace Woods said, as her mother, Amy, 47, caught her breath.

She explained that the pair waited on the outside of the fight until the weak gave up and then went in for their attack.

“It’s a great way to release stress,” Grace Woods said.

Her mother agreed. “It was aggressive out there,” she said.

For 9-year-old Lily Wertheim, her favorite part was “whacking my mom.”

Her mother, Karin Wertheim, came to San Francisco with her daughter on BART from Berkeley after friends recommended the fight as a Valentine’s Day event.

Lily said she wanted to participate again next year, but next time she would “bring more padding and pillows.”

A post on a Facebook page for the event suggested bringing a synthetic pillow, packing light and bringing water to stay hydrated.

Some participants went further to protect themselves for battle, such as 23-year-old San Mateo resident Tina Lunghi, who was donning a helmet and full-body pillow padding.

Participating in her third fight, Lunghi said she was “trying to make people smile” with her “love cape” that had a heart pinned on the back.

She said this was an unusual way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but the unique activity would be followed by dinner and dancing with her girlfriend.

As to technique for the pillow fight, she advised, “Keep your head up and enjoy the rivalry; enjoy the fun.”

The Department of Public Works has prepared for the mess that the pillow fight will create and urged participants to be mindful not to leave debris behind, department spokeswoman Rachel Gordon said.

“Feathers are not the easiest thing to clean up,” she said.

After only 30 minutes of battle, the plaza was covered in feathers, ripped apart pillows and clumps of synthetic pillow material.

The department plans to send a first wave of crews to the plaza with some steamer machines at 9 p.m., followed by a more thorough cleaning scheduled overnight.

At 6 a.m. Friday, another crew will inspect the area and see if any more cleaning needs to be done, Gordon said.

Last year, cleanup costs were estimated at about $5,000.

The event started off peacefully, with a handful of San Francisco police officers monitoring the throng of people playfully whacking each other.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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