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Second Annual Los Angeles Holi Festival Doubles In Attendance

Olivia Niland |
March 12, 2014 | 10:49 p.m. PDT

(Neon Tommy/Olivia Niland)
(Neon Tommy/Olivia Niland)
To those outside the Excelsior High School fairgrounds in Norwalk this past Saturday, the people leaving in a flurry of excitement, covered head to toe in rainbow-colored powder, could have easily been mistaken for Color Run participants. 

But the roughly 16,000 people who attended the second-annual Holi Festival of Colors in LA, however, were exercising not just their bodies (with group yoga) but also their minds and souls with live music, dancing and, of course, color throwing at the festival which finds its roots in ancient Hindu tradition.

“In ancient days in India they would grind up flower petals and throw them on each other,” said Charu Das, the festival’s coordinator and emcee. “We use cosmetic grade dyes with cornstarch, but the same idea is there of renewal, not getting stuck in the past, moving forward with your life...in a sense we should spend every day like this.”

Attendees poured in throughout the entirety of the festival’s seven hour run on Saturday, March 8, and event organizers estimate that attendance at least doubled from the inaugural Festival of Colors in LA last year. The festival was open to all-ages, with toddlers running around the fairgrounds excitedly throwing bright puffs of colored powder into the air, and was billed as a family-friendly, completely sober event--no alcohol or drugs of any were kind allowed inside. 

Attendees could purchase colored powder at the festival, and “color throws” occurred at the top of every hour, preceded by a countdown on the main stage which included emcee Das encouraging attendees to hug as many strangers as they could find. 

“I like the freedom of spirit that is in the atmosphere here, where everyone feels free to associate by playing with the colors,” said first-time festival goer Shyam Lawrence.  “It allows barriers to be broken down, where people might be shy, to go beyond that shyness.”

As dictated by tradition, most attendees were dressed in white, and those whose clothes were deemed too clean left themselves vulnerable to impromptu mini color throws and powdery pats on the back. So omnipresent was the colored powder, in fact, most attendees wielded cameras and cell phones covered in plastic bags and cling wraps, and some wore eye protection and face masks. 

Festival of Colors USA originated in Spanish Fork, Utah, where the largest Festival of Colors in the country has been held annually since 1989, drawing an estimated 800,000 people to the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple each year. Though the traditional religious and cultural aspects of the festival are still alive and well at Festival of Colors celebrations, many in attendance are simply drawn to the lively atmosphere of the event, and the opportunity to be colorful and carefree for a few hours. 

“I think here it is just people looking to have fun,” said Trang Bi, who’s attended the Los Angeles festival both years. “At the end it really is just about celebrating spring.”

Originally, the Holi festival finds its roots in the Hindu celebration of spring and renewal which occurs in India following the new moon in March. 

“An event like this, it’s so big and so dramatic and so full of friendship,” said Das. “It just really reminds me what’s important in life.”

The annual Holi Festival in Spanish Forks will be held Saturday, March 29th. Additional Festival of Colors are also being held in Salt Lake City, San Bernardino, and Las Vegas, among other places. A full lineup of upcoming Festival of Colors dates and locations can be found here



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