Pillow fighting craze hits the Twin Cities

by Andy Mannix

A storm of feathers filled the cool evening air Friday near the Walker Art Center as hundreds engaged in pillow-to-pillow combat.

The pillow fight, which was not affiliated with the Walker Art Center, is one of many individually organized pillow fights that have happened in urban areas throughout the world in the past few years.

Web sites such as Newmindspace.com and Gridskipper.com have posted pictures, videos and information regarding past and future pillow fights in cities worldwide, including New York, Paris and Toronto – some of which have attracted more than 1,000 pillow warriors.

Brothers Matt and Tim Carlson, the brains behind the Minneapolis event, credit the international popularity of the urban pillow fight craze to both the uniqueness of the activity and the opportunity for expression it allows.

“There’s so many places in the world where you can’t gather in a large group,” Matt Carlson said. “It’s kind of like a way of expressing our freedom and realizing how great it is to live in countries where the government isn’t so brutal.”

Tim Carlson said seeing the success of pillow fights in other cities prompted them to plan one in Minneapolis.

The event began at 6 p.m. on the lawn across the street from the Walker Art Center. It was originally planned to take place in front of the Walker, but police and security told the group they had to move off the Walker’s property, Tim Carlson said.

Approximately 200 people showed up to duke it out, many dressed for the occasion in robes and pajamas.

After only a few minutes of battling, the pillow fighters charged to a pedestrian bridge over Lyndale Avenue and continued the fight as millions of feathers poured onto the street.

William Martin, a psychology junior, heard about a giant pillow fight in New York last year and he bought a new feather pillow when he got word of the Minneapolis event, he said.

“It’s a flashback to childhood,” Martin said with a chuckle. “It’s a lot more unique of an experience than going to a party.”

Martin, like many others, heard about the event from a Facebook invitation.

The Carlson brothers posted the event on Facebook two weeks prior and watched the popularity snowball as more and more people invited their friends, Matt Carlson said.

“We really can’t take too much credit for organizing the event,” he said.

They also posted digital fliers on blogs, and relied on word of mouth to do the rest, Tim Carlson said.

Alex Langfeldt, a graphic design sophomore, created the flier the Carlsons used for online promotion.

“It’s such a kid thing to do; it’s good to bring that out in people,” Langfeldt said about the pillow fight, which he referred to as a form of “artistic expression.”

The artistic merit of the event was one of the reasons it was held near the Walker Art Center, Tim Carlson said.

“You can categorize it as interactive public art,” Matt Carlson said.

He said being unique and setting new boundaries for how people interact with each other are two of the most prominent components of art.

“So I guess that’s what the pillow fight will do,” he said. “It will definitely make people realize that our city’s not too bad.”

Although the Walker Art Center stayed unaffiliated with the pillow fight, Witt Siasoco, program manager of teen programs at the Walker, posted the flyer for the event on a blog on the Walker’s Web site.

“This seems like an event that would be considered an artist project if presented in the galleries,” Siasoco wrote on the blog.

The pillow fight eventually made its way over to the “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture in the Walker Art Center’s sculpture garden.

At 6:56 p.m. the event was halted by Minneapolis Park Patrol Agent Katie Hammes.

Hammes said it was a misdemeanor for the activity to be held on the Walker Art Center’s property without a permit.

The Carlsons called the pillow fight a success and said they plan on organizing a follow-up next year.

They also have ideas for planning other events around the city, such as citywide capture the flag, Tim Carlson said.

“In the next few years, it would be sweet if you could just be like walking around Minneapolis on any given weekend and see different free public events going on,” Matt Carlson said.