HAPpy People - Jenny Ampersand

December 7, 2016

Meet Jenny Ampersand, runner up in The Big Float 6 costume contest.

Describe your TBF costume and how you made it. Was it hard to integrate the requirement for a portable floating device?


My costume was the River Siren. It was inspired by work I was doing with Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble that involved sea shanties, Moby Dick, and lots of liquid latex. I created a creature that  combined the mysteries of the deep with a 1980’s MTV pop vibe. I started by creating a helmet out of cellophane and packing tape that would match my life vest which I’ve used since elementary school. I tied it all together with the tentacle dress, a pink wig, some scale makeup, and my MTV towel.   


What reactions did you get from other floaters or folks on the bus home?

Reactions were very positive. High 5s, smiles, and some hugs. A few people honked at us while we waited at the bus stop.   


Apparently this was your first year doing TBF. What attracted you to the event?

For many years, I’ve been following the Float and I was finally able to participate with a good friend and my dad. My father loves the water. As a surfer in the 60’s and a long time windsurfer he has passed on his love of water, though he’s much braver than I am. My imagination creates all sorts of wild images of what’s below. Sometimes I have to kick around and scream a little when I think something has touched my leg. It’s like a roller coaster, it scares you, but you keep going back for more. The Big Float is awesome because it brings lots of people into the river so those crazy thoughts are lessened. There is a peaceful beauty in putting your hands and body in the water.


Was it hard to lose best costume to a lobster?

No way! Hermit crabs are my power animal so I have great respect for crustacean costumes. The competition was fun and I’m so in love with the Popina swim shirt I got out of the deal. I loved to see the creativity expressed through river clothing and clever floats.   


What do you think of the movement to have beach access in downtown Portland?

I think people living in the city sometimes have a disconnect with the nature that exists under our very noses. We get out of town to see the ocean or visit the mountains and forget that the river that we look at every day is a vein connected to the wonderful water body which is the ocean. We worry about ocean plastics and beaches, yet the litter that we drop on the street can end up in the river and float out to the ocean. The things we have a connection with and access to are the things we protect. Having recreational access downtown helps us care for the amazing resources we have right here in Portland. We protect natural spaces that look untouched, but forget about the places which have been neglected. Thank goodness for the awesome people at HAP who are sharing their love of the river and volunteering so much time to care for it!


When you’re not singing enchanting songs to cause sailors to ship wreck, what do you do in real life?

In real life, I get to be a dreamer and a maker as a freelance costume and scenic designer.  


Any costume thoughts or plans for TBF next year?

Well, I’m not sure about logistics, but I’ve always wanted to create a Charon costume to combine with my SUP. When I lived on Devil’s Lake in Lincoln City I would imagine myself rowing across the lake with friends and family who have passed. It sounds less goth in my head. Ha!  

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