Valentine’s Day is about more than kissing, teddy bears, heart-shaped boxes of candy and sappy love songs. Here in San Francisco it’s about smashing strangers in the face.
The weapons of choice were pillows.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Justin Herman Plaza at Embarcadero was spotted with a few hundred people, pillows in hand. Within 45 minutes the plaza was filled with fighters of all ages cheering and waving their pillows over their heads like helicopters.
Shortly before the Ferry Building clock stroke 6, the crowd counted down from five and The Great San Francisco Valentine’s Day Pillow Fight was in full swing for the seventh year in a row.
For SF State psychology junior Bryan Quennell, the event brings back happy childhood memories.
“I loved pillow fights as a kid and this just seemed like a good way to spend Valentine’s,” Quennell said.
Minutes after the mayhem began the air, ground, people’s eyes, ears and mouths were filled with feathers that fluttered from destroyed down pillows.
Some people came prepared.
“I got my heart-shaped pillow and my mask,” said Amber Kuipers, 27-year-old SF State alumnus.
Although Kuipers had no romantic plans for the holiday, she came adorned in a bright pink shirt, a tie covered in white hearts and ruby-red eyeliner to celebrate being single and to get out some Valentine’s Day aggression.
“What better is Valentine’s Day then single awareness day?” Kuipers said. “This way you don’t have to spend it alone.”
Angelina Benicki, 25, opted out of the typical romantic candlelight dinner and brought her boyfriend of over a year to the event.
“It’s just something we can both enjoy instead of feeling like something we have to do,” Benicki said. “I think it’s a business-generated holiday, but if it’s gonna be a holiday might as well take advantage of it.”
Others see the event as a opportunity to find that special someone, like 26-year-old Patrick Wu, who was attending the fight for the third year in a row.
“Tonight I’m here for pillow flirting,” Wu said.
And what was Wu’s strategy?
“You find someone you really like, you get them full force with a nice swing. That way they know that you like them.”
The event brought hundreds of pillow fighters together and almost just as many observers, who stood around the crowd in awe.
San Francisco resident Lamont Allen, 41, had heard of the pillow fight before but arrived to witness it for his first time. He didn’t partake in the activities but enjoyed watching it all go down.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Lamont said. “I should have brought my pillow down here and got in the fight.”