Fooling around

Submitted photo

Imagine several hundred students, adults and kids gathering in a parking lot one evening. Everyone holds a pillow, but the crowd is surprisingly quiet.

Suddenly, a whistle blows and the crowd erupts into a chaotic mess of swinging pillows, screams, and flying feathers. Loud music blares in the background as cameras flash and people dart around each other to avoid being pummeled.

Five minutes later, the fight is called off, and the people quickly disperse back to their normal lives.

Such will be the scene in downtown Eau Claire tomorrow, as Volume One hosts the third annual “Five Minutes of Feathery Fury” in celebration of April Fool’s Day.

“We’re hoping people embrace the absurdity of the whole thing,” said Nick Meyer, editor and publisher of Volume One and one of the event founders.

Since its inception, the pillow fight has grown in popularity, and Meyer said this year he expects 250 people or more to attend. He said Volume One is proud of the absolute foolishness of the event and said the fleeting purpose adds to the absurdity that is April Fool’s Day.

Freshman Jayne Kallenbach said she will be at the event with her giraffe-decal pillow in tow. She plans to attend the event after a friend raved about it last year.

“I heard about it and wasn’t doing anything and it sounded like a good thing to do,” Kallenbach said. “I think it’s a really fun idea.”

Volume One is known for its April Fool’s Day shenanigans. In 2005, the magazine publicized a story that claimed Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba would be signing autographs at Oakwood Mall, 4800 Golf Road, to promote their movie “Sin City.” The prank spiraled into a regional controversy, with many people becoming upset at the publication’s audacity. The year before, Volume One wrote that Metallica would perform in Eau Claire on April 1 – another untrue statement.

“We decided we really don’t want to get in trouble anymore,” Meyer said with a laugh.

In 2006, the magazine staff decided to follow the lead of many large cities across the country and organize a community pillow fight.

Founding the pillow fight proved to be less controversial for the magazine – but no less ridiculous.

“I like how Volume One tries to bring all the people together,” Kallenbach said. “No one else would do that in Eau Claire.”

The first year, the turn-out wasn’t the best, Meyer said, however, “once people knew it was for real, they started showing.”

Last year, some people turnout with pillows duct-taped to their bodies, goggles and protective headgear, Meyer said. This year, the organizers will give out prizes for the best costumes, he said.

Rules for the pillow fight are simple – pick on people your own size, remember that the purpose is to have fun and don’t hit someone without a pillow. Meyer said he reads a disclaimer before beginning so people know they are participating “at their own risk.”

“Everybody has the right attitude and takes the right precautions,” Meyer said, adding that they haven’t had any problems with people getting too crazy in the past.

News of the event is mostly traveling by word-of-mouth, Meyer said, through Facebook and past participants.

“It will be great to get this thing going,” Meyer said. “I think we’re going to have a really good party on our hands.”

Volume One purposely picked a high-profile location for the event, Meyer said, so people on the street stop and check out the unusual sight. There will be plenty of curious onlookers, he said, who will be taking pictures and videos.

In years past, most of the participants have been college-aged students, Meyer said, but there is a good mix of young families, high school students and kids. Everyone in the community is invited, he said.

“I think anyone who’s been to it has been able to enjoy the spirit and the ridiculous foolishness of it,” Meyer said.

Sophomore Erin Pellett heard about the pillow fight through Facebook and said she will head down there with some friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s kind of interesting; kind of different,” Pellett said, “but something light-hearted to get people to not feel so drudged down.”

Meyer said he hopes a ton of people show up tomorrow.

“People need to drag their friends down there,” he said. “(They) need to come ready to jump in the mix.”

It’s imperative that people show up early, Meyer said, because he will blow the whistle at precisely 6 p.m. and the fight only lasts five minutes.

And the only casualties of the event are the pillows, Meyer said.

“There are definitely feathers that fly everywhere.”