The grass was still soggy from morning showers as a group of about 50 people, most clutching pillows, stood in a loose circle on the greensward at Overton Park Saturday afternoon. Out of nowhere, a bearded guy — screaming and swinging two pillows nunchuck-style — ran into the crowd from a nearby parking lot and struck the closest person holding a pillow.
All hell broke loose as the first-ever Memphis Pillow Fight started. Suddenly, complete strangers were whacking one another over the head, back, and rump with pillows of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
"I thought this would be a fun way for people to connect," said pillow-fight coordinator Caroline Allen, an English teacher at Southwest Tennessee Community College.
Allen organized the fight solely through Facebook, and by Saturday morning, the event page showed over 500 confirmed guests, though only about 150 ultimately showed up to fight.
"I was at home on Valentine's night, and I made a Facebook event for this. I originally invited 70 people, and my friend Diana invited 100 people. Two days later, over 1,000 people had been invited," said Allen, sporting pigtails and football-player face paint.
Shortly after the action began, a man carrying two pillows rode into the greensward on a pink bike.
"Get that guy on the bike!" Allen shouted into a megaphone.
Instantly, the gang of pillow fighters stopped hitting one another and ran toward the guy on the bike, pillows in the air ready for attack. In seconds, he and his bike were on the ground.
"I didn't see that coming," said a disheveled Brad Egnor, picking his bike up from the ground when the mob dispersed. "It was rather exciting, though."
Some pillow fighters showed up for the sheer fun of it. Others, like Amber King, came to vent a few frustrations.
"I lost my job in December, and this is a chance to get out some aggression," said King. "It's also a fun way to celebrate spring."
Allen got the idea for the fight from an exhibit at a museum in Manchester, England, that featured a video of a pillow fight staged in front of the city's town hall.
"People sit around and complain about how Memphis isn't cool, but your city is what you make of it," Allen said.
The fight lasted much longer than the scheduled 30 minutes, but many fighters — some blaming smoker's lungs — pooped out as the fight wore on. By 4 p.m., most fighters were standing around talking rather than hitting.
Even so, Allen would occasionally pick up the megaphone and ask pillow fighters to attack a certain person. At one point, she asked participants to form two lines and attack one another Braveheart-style.
In the end, no serious injuries were sustained — except for maybe a bruise or two.
"I had my camera over my shoulder, and it got hit up against me several times," said John Morgan, who alternated between pillow fighting and photographing the action. "I'll probably have a few bruises tomorrow."
As for future events, Allen hopes to organize a water-gun fight in the park during the summer.