COLUMBIA — For volunteers painting props for Friday's True/False Film Festival parade, preparation has been under way for more than a month.
Workers with Creative Days Art Studio have been coordinating with the True/False staff to bring the parade's forest theme to life.
On a recent day in the studio, pointed newspaper hats decorated with colorful feathers and glitter overflowed from a box in a far corner of the studio.
A 6-foot film projector costume made of cardboard and black paint sat in the center of the room.
Coffee-can drums and noisemakers painted in red, white and black lay in piles on top of two child-sized tables. Alphabet stamps sat scattered around them. Their letters, if arranged correctly, spelled out “T-R-U-E F-A-L-S-E.”
The annual parade, also called the March March, kicks off the True/False Film Festival near Stephens College. Despite conflicting times on the True/False website, Parade Marshal Mike Denehy said the parade begins at 5:20 p.m. A menagerie of enchanted creatures will stroll the streets of Columbia along with locals, out-of-towners, filmmakers and volunteers.
Anyone who wants to march in the parade is welcome to do so — it’s free to join and no registration is necessary. Drums, noisemakers and newspaper hats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Participants are encouraged to wear costumes, bring floats or just show up as themselves, Denehy said. The theme is Trees/Forest, though Denehy said out-of-theme costumes are perfectly acceptable.
“My goal is to get everybody out there to have some sort of fun experience,” Denehy said. “If they want to watch, that’s great, but we’re going to have volunteers out there trying to persuade them to join.”
The parade, which has gathered something of a cult following, is expected to have more than 200 participants this year.
Self-expression and creativity play key roles in the March March atmosphere, which can result in a “bizarre scene,” Denehy said.
“Spectators are going to see bands; they’re going to see people in crazy costumes, fire and balloons,” Denehy said. “They’re going to just see randomness all around.”
Costumes that have been worn down Columbia’s streets in the past includecows, robots and penny-farthing bicycles. Last year, Denehy led the parade in an ostrich costume.
“It’s one of those parades where you come however you want to,” Denehy said. “You can really do whatever you want to express yourself.”
Katy McDonald, co-owner of Creative Days Art Studio and March March volunteer, said the artistic aspect of the parade and the sense of community it creates are important to her.
“Columbia has a really unique quality that lots of other towns don’t in the fact that we do glorify it with great things like this,” McDonald said. “It just makes people in this community proud to live here and be a Columbian.”
McDonald and Cristy Lillig, her sister and business partner, have been in the parade in the past and took their involvement to a new level this year. They offered to recreate some of the parade props that were damaged by flooding in the basement of Stephens College, where they were stored.
“Some of those props were so iconic to the parade,” McDonald said. “So we heard about the flooding, and we were like, we can’t let this happen. There has to be a movie camera, and there has to be a squid. Someone had to step in, and we made sure that someone did.”
McDonald and her sister remade classic props, such as the squid and film projector, and are contributing some of their own creations as well.
Sitting at a paint-stained table at Creative Days, McDonald dipped strips of newspaper into a bowl filled with a mixture of flour and water. She scraped the excess goop off on the side and smoothed the newspaper over the paper mâché prop to her right.
“It actually started as the squid,” she said. “Then we wrapped it with the tape, and I was like, it really doesn’t look like a squid as much as a mummy or a person. So since the theme is trees and forest, I thought it would be perfect if we did a little elf.”
Other new additions to the prop collection include a bubble-blowing fish and an owl, McDonald said.
“I’m excited to see what people’s reactions are to the props and what they think of them,” McDonald said. “I’m also just excited to see the energy of the people that show up to participate — it’s just awesome every year. It sets the mood for the whole weekend for me.”
Vida Lux, a volunteer and parade participant, said she enjoys the atmosphere that March March creates.
“I just think it’s great to dress in costume and act goofier than usual,” Lux said.
A few years ago, Lux dressed as a gorilla for the parade. This year, she’s going to go along with the Trees/Forest theme.
“I’m going to be Little Red Riding Hood,” Lux said. “There’s a group that’s doing Little Red Riding Hood, with a wolf and with the guy with the ax and everything.”
Denehy, who will be at the front of the parade again this year, hopes it will allow members of the community to truly become a part of the weekend’s activities.
“It’s fun for people to observe things going on,” Denehy said. "Once you take that leap of faith and join in the parade and you march and you make sounds and you scream and you make music, you feel like you’re really a part of the scene.”
The parade starts near the Stephens College visitors’ center at 1215 E. Broadway, continues down Broadway to Ninth Street and heads to the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts. Denehy suggests watching the parade between Broadway and Ninth Street.
He said he encourages spectators to take advantage of the experience and participate in the parade instead of sitting on the sidelines.
“If you have 20 minutes on Friday evening, you can have a great adventure,” he said.
Missourian reporter Anlan Li contributed to this report.