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Planned parade to facilitate collision between creative art and bicycles

Event organizers will provide art material for residents who would like to make improvements to their bicycles on May 19. Contributed photo.
Event organizers will provide art material for residents who would like to make improvements to their bicycles on May 19. Contributed photo.

If you’ve ever walked around downtown Grinnell, chances are you have seen one of Ryan McGuire’s wacky vehicles. There is his “Monster Truck,” a Ford pick-up painted yellow with purple spots, a mouth and eyes, and his “Dinocar,” a green Volkswagen Bug with orange spikes. 

On May 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Grinnell families will have the opportunity to make their own wacky vehicles at the Second Annual Bikes to Art Festival.

McGuire collaborated with fellow Grinnell resident Melissa Berman on the idea for a Bikes to Art Festival last year, tapping into a mutual love for art and community. Before moving to Grinnell, Berman lived in Minneapolis, where she would attend “art car parades” regularly. 

“Those are full of beautiful handmade art cars and contraptions and things that go. … I just thought it would be fun to do that in Grinnell sometime,” Berman said. Upon seeing the dinosaur car, she mentioned the idea for an art-car parade to McGuire. He immediately agreed.

According to McGuire, converting cars into art is “super time consuming and very expensive.” The two consequently decided that bikes would be more practical. 

“People wouldn’t have to invest in a [car], and, you know, this is a very bike-friendly town,” McGuire said. 

According to Berman and McGuire, what really sets the Bikes to Art Festival apart from more traditional community events is the fact that it is not a fundraiser for something else. It simply serves to bring the community together.

“It’s the fun and camaraderie of community without having the pressure of being a fundraiser for something else or being connected to something that’s going deeper than what it needs to,” Berman said.

“The idea around this was, ‘let’s have an event that brings our neighbors together from all different social divides, and have everything for free,’” McGuire added. “You can come with no bike, we’ll get you a bike. If you want to come with a bike non-decorated, we’ll have all the supplies to decorate the bike for free, we’re gonna feed everybody for free, [and] we’re gonna entertain everybody for free.”

Last year, Berman and McGuire funded the event themselves. This year, they received a grant from Grin City Collective and sponsorship from a number of local businesses. In addition to free bike-decorating supplies, like construction paper, fabric, yarn, pool noodles, colored duct tape, rhinestones, tin foil and fake flowers, the event will provide free tacos from The Purple Cucumber and a free live music performance by High Crest, a folk-rock family band from Des Moines.

Berman and McGuire agree that the event was a huge success last year, despite rainy weather. According to McGuire, nearly 70 people showed up and participated enthusiastically. One of the best parts, he said, was getting to see artists and non-artists coming together to work creatively with one another. 

“Probably the most successful thing was to see, you know, fathers who don’t normally make art at all, sitting on the ground, helping their children convert their bikes into, you know, spaceships and ponies, … just to see people engaging with their siblings and their families in a whole new way,” McGuire said.

Berman and McGuire invite and encourage Grinnell College students to participate and are especially looking for volunteers to help with decorating. The festival will take place on May 19, the Saturday at the end of final exam week.

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