Quarterly sidewalk parade ‘Joy March’ spreads messages of positivity

The Joy March is a colorful and unique parade in downtown Iowa City that “weaponizes the fun” by having participants dress up in three-dimensional costumes and use sound devices to spread positivity.

Gabby Drees

Bubbles surround participants of the Joy March in Iowa City on Saturday, October 2, 2021. Every four months, members of the community come together to celebrate and spread joy in unique costumes.


Be bold, be silly, be present – that’s the motto of the colorful and unique quarterly parade, Joy March.

The Joy March was an idea conceptualized by Public Space One in the midst of the pandemic, near the end of 2020. Public Space One is a contemporary art center in Iowa City that is artist and community driven.

Jenny Gringer, a printmaker at Public Space One who also works in psychiatry research at University of Iowa hospitals and clinics, said it all looked bleak at the time because they hadn’t been able to get together. get together and work on collaborative projects like they did before the pandemic.

Gringer posed the question, “Wouldn’t it be fun to make giant cardboard heads and walk downtown for about 30 minutes?”

So in January 2021, she and her Public Space One friends walked down North Gilbert Street for the first-ever Joy March, donning three-dimensional costumes with music playing loudly in the background from instruments and boomboxes. homemade.

The goal of the march is to “weaponize the fun” and focus on what’s good in the world, rather than just dwelling on negative current events.

This Saturday, April 2, the group is hosting its second Joy March of 2022 with hopes of milder weather than last winter, though current forecasts call for April showers.

The rain won’t stop the Joy March, because nothing will stop them from going out to celebrate, according to the Joy March website. Everyone is invited to join the march – sometimes they even pass by spectators who join the parade themselves.

“Just let yourself go. I want everyone to feel like they can go out and try to spread the joy,” said Emily Jalinsky, a printmaking artist from Iowa City. “I always love it when we cross the street and there are a few people there – their faces light up when they see us.”

For Jalinsky, seeing the often extravagant costumes everyone creates is his favorite part. She said she also makes her own costumes by hand.

For this Joy March in particular, she was inspired by the spring season and her daughter, who had the idea of ​​wearing flowery dresses. Jalinsky said the three-year-old was unsure whether to take part in the final walk, but is now excited and ready to go on Saturday.

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Jalinsky also makes a wreath from affirmation cards, in an attempt to represent personal joy and support.

“It’s written on it – ‘I’m happy. I am inspiring. I am aware. I am resilient,” Jalinsky said. “But that’s just the beginning, a lot of us tend to do things the week before.”

Following this, Sayuri Hemann, an artist living and working in Iowa City, has yet to begin designing her costume, but she has a spring-themed idea: birds.

On the last march in January, Hemann created and wore a giant spherical mushroom head in green and orange polka-dot papier-mâché with a furry rug wrapped around it for warmth.

A landmark on the way to Joy March is Hemann’s colorful mural titled Coexist which she and United Action for Youth painted in 2018. The mural is located overlooking the old US Bank parking lot which has since been fenced off from the public.

Joy March participants stopped and danced in front of the mural, marking the parade corridor. Now they’re still dancing, just on the adjacent sidewalk instead of directly next to the mural.

“It’s always fun to dance in front, you feel like you’re part of a happy landscape,” Hemann said.

Ultimately, Gringer said the Joy March is a unique event that was created to give a scheduled break to anyone living a stressful or serious daily life.

“Just let go of all the things we hold on to, all the seriousness we use to lead our lives, all the responsibilities we have to take on,” Gringer said. “Just take a 30 minute break and do something fun.”

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