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Thousands fling colors into the sky to celebrate spring Holi Festival

April 1st, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

Story & Photos by Cassidee Cline

SPANISH FORK, Utah—Thousands of people gathered under multicolored clouds over the weekend to celebrate the coming of spring.

It was the Holi Festival of Colors, an annual two-day event hosted by the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.

People from all over Utah came to listen to live bands play Krishna music, eat traditional Indian food, and throw colorful powder at one another in celebration of the ending of winter.

Column: Can’t quite wash Holi out of my hair.

Christie Flower, 28, of Salt Lake volunteered to help with first aid at the festival. Mostly, she said, she helped find lost children and washed the colored powder out of people’s eyes.

“All of this stuff is very near and dear to me,” Flower said. “I think it’s fun that the community is getting involved and experiencing something that probably most of them would never get a chance of experiencing.”

Every two hours came a scheduled “color throwing,” which painted the sky and participants with bright powder. A woman stood on stage shouting out to the crowd to rise up their hands to celebrate love and beauty, and began the count-down. Then the crowd shouted and filled the air with blues, yellows, reds and purples. Some sat on friends’ shoulders to take photos and throw powder on everyone else’s head. Others were hoisted up above the crowd and surfed towards the stage.

Tyler Hardy, 25, came from Ogden with his friends. One of his friends had told him about the Festival of Colors, and he wanted to experience for himself the Holiday of Holi.

“I love it, it’s awesome,” Hardy said. “Just don’t get lost—you can’t find anybody.”

Newcomers arrived clean, but within minutes were covered in a multitude of colorful patterns. Many people didn’t have to purchase the $2 bags of colored powders to get the Holi look.

Police estimated the crowd at about 40,000 on Saturday and another 10,000 on Sunday.

“We all look like a rainbow threw up on us,” Hardy said, laughing.

The colored powder, imported from India, was presold starting March 1 until the event. Colors were also sold on the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple grounds, along with t-shirts and Indian food. Shuttles brought festival-goers from different parking lots in the area to allow more parking and cheap transportation.

Caru Das Adikari, Holi Festival master of ceremonies for 40 years, said he thought this year’s event went really well. He said around 100,000 bags of color were sold, and there were few injuries.

Most of the injuries last year, Adikari said, occurred from people tossing crowd-surfers. When a person is tossed over the crowd, others sometimes were injured from when the crowd-surfer landed on top of them.

Also, he said, many crowd-surfers are moved from the back towards the stage. “When kids are crowd surfing, those standing in front can’t see who’s coming behind them,” he said.

Next year, he said, they will encourage kids to crowd-surf away form the stage so others can see if someone is coming and avoid injury.

Adikari said the organizers are already planning for next year. “The colors are imported from India and have to be purchased 10 months in advance,” he said. He said he has put at least 5,000 hours into the planning of this event and every year it grows. This year’s festival drew about twice as many participants as last year, Adikari said.

Adikari said the events like the Holi Festival hosted by the temple are meant to help people understand Krishna and to love one another. He said all the money raised goes to help expand the temple and help fund events and outreach programs.

“The festival is for bringing in spring and celebrating the new explosion of life that happens after the winter,” Flower said. “It’s about happiness and loving each other and celebrating Krishna.”

For more information about the Sri Sri Krishna Temple and its events, visit the temple’s website.

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