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FYI: Giant jellyfish coming to Union Square

Burning Man arts group to compliment holiday lights with giant medusozoa

Jellyfish puppets waving in front of the giant Christmas Tree in Union Square.
This is real.
Photo courtesy of Billion Jelly Bloom

December is a time for lights in San Francisco, and it’s also a time for alarming but beautiful giant jellyfish puppets to march on our public spaces. Apparently.

Thursday, December 21, the Mission-based performance group Billion Jelly Bloom plans to gather at Union Square with their trademark jellyfish puppets and then, well, they’ll do whatever it is a giant smack of jellyfish puppets do when they mass together.

For those brave enough to discover what will happen firsthand, Billion Jelly’s Facebook page announces that they presently have ten spaces open for new performers.

[Update: Billion Jelly Bloom co-founder Patricia Lord says they’re now down to just two slots.]

Those who want to participate must answer a short questionnaire that includes queries like, “Why will you make a great jellyfish?”, a soul-searching interrogation we all must face at some point in life.

Potential cnidaria are cautioned, “If you don't want to carry an eight pound puppet for 60 to 90 minutes,” it’s wiser to sign up as an alternate. The soft-bodied life can be a hard lot, it seems.

To the surprise of no one, Billion Jelly Bloom has its roots (or tendrils?) in Burning Man, where SF locals Patricia and Robert Lord sported their first jellyfish puppets (converted umbrellas) a few years back.

“[Returning] from Burning Man 2011, Billion Jelly Bloom’s email inbox contained unprompted requests to bloom at non-Burning Man events, to our surprise and delight,” according to the timeline on the troupe’s website.

Since then the jellyfish puppeteers have marketed their performances to special events like the Treasure Island Music Festival. This is the fifth or sixth year (the founders cannot quite remember which) that Billion Jelly Bloom will descend on Union Square.

“In the past it was mostly friends and friends of friends and people we knew” who showed up eager to tote a jellyfish Patricia Lord tells Curbed SF. “But this year almost everyone is new.”

There are only ten actual jellyfish puppets to go around, but Lord days some 15 or 18 people will probably end up handling one by the end of the night, and the carnival atmosphere will include plenty of chances for non-jellyfish performers to get in on the action too.

So anyone who felt that the local yuletide cheer needed an extra psychotropic boost will now get their opportunity to shine—or swarm, in this case.

The jellyfish, showing their #Pride tonight.

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