Saturday, representatives from Ball State PBS celebrated the legacy of Bob Ross by hosting Happy Little Fest on LaFollette Field and in the nearby E.F. Ball Communication Building.
“We’re marking Bob’s birthday with a big bash that’s really a celebration of creativity and joy, an example of the work Ball State PBS does every day to bring light and creativity to the world,” Dr. Phil Hoffman, general manager of Ball State Public Media and assistant dean of Media at Ball State University’s College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM), said in a press release about the festival.
Upon entering Happy Little Fest, attendees were greeted by a large-scale caricature model of Bob Ross himself, alongside a handful of wig-wearing Bob Ross look-alike contestants perusing the various stops on the field, including a food truck, merchandise tents, random bingo or trivia with prizes, two photo booths, one tent hosting a painting workshop for kids and another hosting the larger painting workshop for all other ages.
The main event, “Paint like Bob Ross,” held up to 300 participants in a lesson and experience of Bob Ross’ signature “wet-on-wet” oil painting techniques taught by a Certified Bob Ross Instructor. Attendees who purchased tickets, which included the supplies necessary, followed along in creating a Bob Ross-inspired painting of their own.
Throughout the tent, smiles and a sense of community, cultivated by recapturing the peaceful atmosphere of The Joy of Painting, flourished.
“Bob Ross always brings joy to people, and if this can make somebody smile, that’s what it’s all about,” Brian Burke, longtime fan and second-place winner of the look-alike contest, said.
Burke cherished Bob Ross’ constant positivity and calm attitude, and noted some fan-favorite quotes like “beat the devil out of it” (which Ross would say when batting his brush against the base of the easel to remove the access water) or “no mistakes, just happy little accidents.”
Anna Burke, social media artist and Brian’s wife, felt the same, recalling the icon in her youthand how The Joy of Painting would constantly be airing.
According to Ball State PBS, The Joy of Painting began filming in Muncie in the original WIPB-TV studio before moving to the E.F. Ball Communications building in 1988. Over the course of 10 years, 30 seasons of the show were filmed with WIPB.
Jim Needham, former WIPB general manager, worked with Bob Ross. In a panel discussion hosted in the same studio as The Joy of Painting, Needham emphasized the relationship between Muncie’s community spirit and Bob Ross’ own personality and motivation to help others.
“ I think [the community’s drive to support each other] embraced Bob, and Bob embraced them and embraced the spirit in this community that makes this station so successful,” Needham said. “...because that’s the way he was. It wasn’t put on for the camera; it was just who Bob was.”