Portlanders pack wallops during city’s first International Pillow Fight Day

Posted April 06, 2013, at 5:57 p.m.
Last modified April 07, 2013, at 5:27 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Gatekeepers Dominic Germaine and Jason Kelman checked each passing participant for weapons.

The contraband in this case? Pillows stuffed a bit much. Nobody was seen denied entry.

A “how-to” page on the International Pillow Fight Day website warns participants — who gathered in Portland’s Monument Square on Saturday afternoon along with dozens of other cities worldwide — to swing lightly, carry only soft pillows and remove glasses ahead of time.

And to beware “ad-hoc alliances, charging the middle in forms reminiscent of historical fiction films like ‘Braveheart’ or ‘300.’”

As of Saturday in Portland, organizers say, the pillow took its rightful place alongside the claymore and hoplon in history.

Conor Tubbs is a staff writer at Portland’s Dispatch magazine, the publication behind organizing the city’s first foray into the light-hearted holiday of sorts, which has been held annually in other cities around the globe since 2008.

“The CEO of Dispatch had wanted to get involved last year but there was a lot going on around the office so things didn’t pan out,” Tubbs, who has been on the Dispatch staff for about two months, told the BDN in an email. “Managing Editor Katy Kelleher had been a few times in Boston and got really excited by the idea of having it in Portland, so my first week, I got an email from her saying ‘here’s your first assignment!’”

Tubbs said the magazine did not set up a pre-registration, but received 150 attendance confirmations by midweek before the event through the social networking website Facebook, as well another 100 “maybes.”

A group of at least a dozen attendees from Freeport company Cuddledown were never among the “maybes,” said public relations writer Danielle Vayenas.

“We’d seen online videos of the event happening in other cities, so when we heard it was being held in Portland this year, we knew we had to be a part of it,” Vayenas told the BDN. “We’re the pillow manufacturer of the region — the only one in the state — so why not?”

Vayenas said Cuddledown participants broke up in two groups, “pillow ninjas” and tongue-in-cheek protesters, with the latter team carrying signs saying things like “Make beds, not war.” Company representatives also gave out 30-percent-off coupons while Portland pillow-fighters clobbered one another Saturday.

Does having their own pillow factory give the Cuddledown combatants an unfair advantage?

“We will definitely have Cuddledown pillows from our employee store. We’re picking the soft ones, though, not the ‘overfilled,’” Vayenas said. “But I don’t think it’s a competition. I think it’s more about getting out there and having a blast.”

Tubbs said Dispatch planned to give out a pair of tickets for the event’s best costumes to a Sunday concert at The State Theatre featuring Pentatonix, the vocal quintet crowned winner of Season 3 of the NBC competition show “ The Sing-Off.” Saturday afternoon’s pillow fight was followed by a pajama party at Asylum Bar & Grill, where participants could perhaps sign some pillow peace treaties. Until next year.

“All in all, I look forward to a huge group of people starting a Portland tradition,” Tubbs said.