Daisy Nava, an 18-year-old biology major at SF State, sat in Justin Herman Plaza waiting for the 12th annual Valentine’s Day Great San Francisco Pillow Fight to begin.
A crowd of about 60 gathered around the plaza awaiting the event, with only a few people carrying pillows with them.
“It’s crazy, but it is also going to be fun to smack people,” said Nava, who attended the event for the first time with her friend Jennifer Lopez, 20.
Lopez, a social justice major from the University of California, Santa Barbara, wanted to release some tension built up due to the country’s political climate, and thought the pillow fight would be a fun way to do so.
“Every day I wake up, there are more steps backwards,” Lopez said. “It’s insane.”
A few steps from Nava and Lopez was a couple wearing blue and grey elephant onesies. Alma Paredes wore the blue onesie and her boyfriend of six months, Daniel Arroyo, wore the grey one. The couple decided to spend their first Valentine’s Day at the annual event.
“I brought her here,” Arroyo said. “I thought it would be a good date.”
“It was my idea to wear elephant onesies,” said Paredes, an SF State psychology major. “I associate pillow fights with sleepovers.”
Coordinators planned for attendees to take their positions in the middle of the plaza at 5:50 p.m. to begin the pillow fight at 6 p.m., according to the website SF FunCheap; however, excited pillow-fighters started immediately at 5:50 p.m.
“If I had a pillow, I’d join the fun,” said Jessica Shea, a visitor from upstate New York.
Shea is in San Francisco for an international teaching conference and didn’t know the fight was happening until earlier that day.
“My colleagues who came from Quebec asked me if this is normal, and I told them ‘no, this is all San Francisco,’” Shea said.
A few minutes past 6 p.m., there were over 100 pillows in the air and tons of cameras flashing attempting to capture the moment.
Justin Pyne, a musician from San Francisco, surprised his girlfriend at Justin Herman Plaza by taking two pillows out of his backpack. He explained that the pillow fight was a good outlet for different kinds of frustrations.
“There is a lot of tension with communication and relationships. The world is so violent and this is a good way to not go crazy,” Pyne said. “People get used to the routine and then they go crazy.”
Randy Simmons, 52, invited Joy Tayler, 50, to the event. They’ve known each other for a while, but decided to make the pillow fight their first official date. Simmons has missed only two of the 12 annual pillow fights, attracted by the abstract art normally presented at the event.
“I was laughing all the time. I barely hit anyone,” Tayler said after her first round. “You can be silly. You can be middle-aged kids.”
At 6:30 p.m., the crowd amounted to a little over 300 people. Some pillow-fighters stopped to rest while new attendants joined the battle in the center of the plaza.
“Less people, same enthusiasm,” said Nasira Johnson, an SF State marine biology major, who has attended the event for four years now as a “good way to get rid of anger.”
July Richards attended the pillow fight for the first time and agreed that this kind of event is good for people in San Francisco.
“This city is so peaceful,” Richards said. “It’s a good way to come up together and have a common stress relief (activity).”
A few hours after the pillow fight began, avid fighters paused to start collecting the feathers from their pillows, even though the San Francisco Department Public Works was in charge of cleaning up after the event, according to a statement from Department Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon to ABC 7.