Holi Festival of Colors brings community together

(Photo By Raychel Johnson) People participate in the color festival Saturday afternoon.
(Photo By Raychel Johnson) People participate in the color festival Saturday afternoon.

A plume of orange and pink dust could be seen rising from the Lotus Temple from several miles away. Upon walking even closer, traditional mantra music along with modern dance hits accompanied the dust in a celebration only the Hindus could put on.

The Holi Festival of Colors in Spanish Fork is a yearly event held the first two weeks of spring at the Lotus Temple. Holi is celebrated to mark the beginning of spring and the triumph of light over darkness. The festival featured nonstop live music, yoga and a feast of vegetarian Indian food.

Bags of colored corn starch were thrown every two hours and by the thousands of people who gathered on the temple grounds. Last year, more than 80,000 people attended the two-day event, and some members of the crowd said this year was the biggest to date.

The Lotus Temple generates all of its revenue from the festivals it holds. The entrance fee was $3 and children were free. Bags of color needed to be purchased at the event, or people could preregister online and purchase a package including bags of color and a shirt.

One festival-goer, holding a sign reading “free hugs,” said she and her brother were having a competition to see who could get the most hugs. She said this was her second year attending the festival in American Fork, and she was also planning on going to the Salt Lake festival held in April.

“Holi is like where a bunch of people come together, and everyone is the same color,” she said. “It’s a festival where everyone is just the same. So I’m just spreading the love, I guess.”

A group of students from Brigham Young University-Idaho drove down to Provo the night before the festival in order to attend. A.J. Parmer, a sophomore at BYUI, said it was her first time attending the festival, but she would attend again.

“I think it’s kind of cool, it’s different,” Parmer said. Although she didn’t know exactly what the colors represented, she said it goes along with peace and love. “I definitely feel loved with all this color. I guess the one thing I didn’t really expect is when people, even if they don’t know you, will just come up to you and throw chalk at you or hug you.”

One of the “carrots” or to-dos of the event is to lovingly engage in the colorful decoration of one another and ask permission to hug strangers. Members of the crowd could be heard shouting, “Blessings. Krishna blessings.”

Bree Gresham, a psychology sophomore at Weber State University, brought along her hula hoop and a bandana to keep the color dust out of her face. She and her friend Steven Ferguson, a criminal justice student at WSU, were attending the festival for the first time.

“The color festival is about an experience,” Gresham said. “I’ll probably get hit in the face with lots of color, and not be coming out in my nice white clothes.”

Ferguson, also outfitted with sunglasses and a bandana, said he walked four miles from the freeway parking spot to the temple.

“I’m walking to the color festival,” he said. “. . . Just looking to get some colors put onto myself. This is my first time — never been to a color festival before.”

Festival veteran Mathew Neilson, a human development major at BYU, said he goes every year because he loves to be dirty and colorful.

“I think it’s a festival celebrating springtime as well as love, and I’m all about springtime and love,” Neilson said. His guess was that there were 10,000 people there at 4:30 p.m. “We’re going to dance in this field for a little bit, then bike home and then swim in the river.”

He and his group of BYU friends said they rode their bicycles down from Provo to avoid the crowds and traffic. Neilson shared some tips for people who want to attend future color festivals.

“So, like, the biking is the best thing,” Neilson said. “Another thing is to not be rushed … I bought my colors the other day. I came down and just bought them so I wouldn’t have to wait in line or anything.”

Annie Pulsipher, another BYU student, rode down with Neilson and his group. She suggested going to the festival with smaller groups of friends.

“When I came once before, I came with like 20 people, and it was so hard to stay together,” Pulsipher said.

Getting the color out of hair and clothes can be difficult. Neilson said he likes how the color stays on his clothes and dyes it, while Pulsipher said she usually soaks her clothes then takes a hardcore shower.

“We’re going to play in the river this time to get it off,” Pulsipher said. “It’s kinda fun. It gets a little weird because you’ll be coughing up black for a little while afterward. Black earwax. Black snot.”