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'Massive' pillow fight takes over Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square

If you’ve ever wanted to hit your fellow citizens, then International Pillow Fight Day is for you.

You can smack and whack your friends and strangers with a pillow until your arms go limp.

Of course, your opponents also have to be holding a pillow. And they can hit you back.

This pillow whacking free-for-all is how hundreds of Torontonians spent their Saturday afternoon on Easter weekend, as they converged at Nathan Phillips Square, pillows in hand, taking fluffy swings at each other during the Toronto segment of International Pillow Fight Day.

"It's fantastic!" said Edna Sacay, who attended the event in a vibrant multicoloured onesie."It's something to do in the community that's fun and uplifting after a long, cold winter."

"And you don't have to get dressed to attend," Jeremiah Sacay added.

Edna Sacay whacks a fellow International Pillow Fight participant at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square on April 4, 2015. (Jessica Lepore/The Globe and Mail)

This is the 10th year the event has run in Toronto, and the seventh International Pillow Fight Day. Both events were founded by Newmindspace, a Toronto-based non-profit group that hosts free city-wide events in various North American cities.

“It’s every child’s favourite slumber party activity, and here’s an opportunity to do it in public on a massive scale,” says Newmindspace co-founder Kevin Bracken.

Newmindspace organizes the pillow fight events in Toronto and New York City on the first Saturday of every April. Toronto’s event brings in hundreds of participants each year. In New York City, it draws in thousands, says Mr. Bracken.

Hundreds gather in Toronto's Nathan Phillips square for the city's 10th annual International Pillow Day event on April 4, 2015. (Jessica Lepore/The Globe and Mail)

“It’s a great way to recapture childhood, a great place to meet singles, and for others, it’s exercise and gets you out of the house,” he says.

The rules of the event are simple: bring a soft, feather-free pillow, swing lightly, remove your glasses, and don’t hit people who are unarmed (without a pillow).

In Toronto, couples, friends and families attended the event. Some wore pajama pants adorned with Olaf from Frozen or unicorn onesies while charging at people with their pillows as music pulsed through Nathan Phillips Square.

Some even dressed with safety in mind, rocking helmets and goggles.

A man attends Toronto's International Pillow Day at Nathan Phillips Square on April 4, 2015. (Jessica Lepore/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto and New York City weren’t the only cities participating in International Pillow Fight Day on Saturday. According to the event website, over 100 cities across the world also participated in the event, including Athens, Amsterdam, and Hong Kong.

International Pillow Fight Day is also part of Newmindspace’s “urban playground movement,” which promotes large, free events in public places, shifting entertainment from private spaces to the streets, says Mr. Bracken.

“In North America a lot of entertainment is consumed in private, for example malls and movie theatres,” he says. “We hold massive events in public to show what happens when you have a great public space.”

Newmindspace hosted their first event on Easter weekend in 2005: a city-wide egg hunt in Toronto that the group advertised on the then-popular blogging site LiveJournal.

What was supposed to be a one-time event led to 10 years of city-wide event planning after people probed Newmindspace on when their next event would be held. Their first pillow fight event in Toronto took place months later in November, 2005.

Since then, Newmindspace has hosted an array of city-wide events including bubble battles, parties on subways and capture the flag, in cities such as Toronto, New York City and San Francisco.

Although the pillow fight events tend to be the most popular, says Mr. Bracken.

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