This story was written by Ithaca Voice Intern Anna Lamb. 

ITHACA, N.Y. —  A long time staple of the Grassroots festival, the Happiness Parade welcomed a crowd Sunday to celebrate their creativity and joy through bright costumes and colorful signs, accompanied by the upbeat sound of the Fall Creek Brass Band.

The parade this year is a result of the evolution of the event over the past 15 years or so.

“Costumes was the original thing we were doing, besides the parade day,” said Parade Director Gwen Daniels. “People kept donating them so we kept washing them and bringing them back-and getting people excited about their identity.”

In addition to the costumes, this year during the festival there were two booths outside the Happiness Parade headquarters. The first was the Positive Signs Booth where festival goers could make signs to use in the parade, as well as the Slash’n Fash’n Booth where old clothes could be reinvented with some scissors, staples, and assorted collage items

The first parade, started by Daniels herself, stemmed from a puppet piece she made for the festival’s annual art exhibit.

“I brought, one year, a couple of big puppet faces I had made for another production. We displayed them outside– but they’re things you wear,” she said. “We started taking them around the grounds and doing little skits with them. Other merrymakers started to follow it around.”

Each year after that she said, the puppets would return and so would more participants, organizers and onlookers. People would look forward to the impromptu little parade, and from there it continued to grow.

The Happiness Parade has been unique it’s mission. According to Daniels, the march was never and still isn’t, a protest march. Instead, they like to refer to it as a ‘yes fest.’

“People can participate even if they’re not very serious about what they’re positive about. They can be in it just for fun or they can be in it as a way to change the world,” she said. “(They can) march for what they’re in favor of.”

The scene at this year’s procession included stilt walkers, suffragettes, a massive glow stick pinwheel, a gorilla suit, and plenty of other whimsical adornments. The one thing all those participating had in common was a huge grin.

Video by Jacob Mroczek/The Ithaca Voice