“Something wonderful is about to happen,” a billboard in Wyoming reads. “Love who you are. We do,” reads another in California.

And in south Minneapolis, anyone ambling up and down Nicollet Avenue near 43rd Street in the next few weeks will be hard-pressed to miss the cheery message beaming off the bright yellow billboard: “Think happy thoughts. They’re better for you than blueberries.”

These three are among 37 “Smile Across America” signs popping up across the United States to promote good vibes and happy thoughts in time for Friday’s U.N.-sanctioned International Day of Happiness.

Orchestrated by the Joy Team, a “positive thought” nonprofit based in Vancouver, Wash., the signs are being strategically placed in 19 locations to draw on the nation’s map two eyes and a grin — in other words, a smiley face.

Minneapolis’ billboard, along with one at the corner of Selby Avenue and Victoria Street in St. Paul (“You make a difference. A big one”), help form the right eye, when looking from outer space. The face’s grin is dotted by billboards from Oregon to New York, dipping south through Arizona, Texas and Georgia along the way.

The Joy Team’s regional representative in the Twin Cities, Dawn Wenisch, said the bright billboard idea came from the team’s director, Michele Larsen, in January. Larsen said she wanted it done in time to mark the Day of Happiness.

“And I said, ‘You realize that’s just a few weeks down the road, don’t you?’ ” Wenisch recalled, “and she [was] just … so optimistic and so positive.” Of course.

The project received support from 20 organizations and individuals to get the perky billboards in place. Thrivent Financial helped with the Minneapolis billboard. Discount Tire backed the St. Paul sign.

The United Nations declared March 20 International Happiness Day in 2012 to recognize happiness as a “fundamental human goal,” according to the U.N.’s Web page for the holiday.


Anne Millerbernd is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.