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Annual Anandamela event in Redmond to feature international artists, weekend activities

Anita Lerche (center), a Danish singer who performs in various languages including Punjabi, will be one of the performers at this year
Anita Lerche (center), a Danish singer who performs in various languages including Punjabi, will be one of the performers at this year's Anandamela festival at Redmond City Hall July 27-29.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Now in its third year and bigger than ever, this year's Anandamela Joyful Festival of India at Redmond City Hall, 15670 N.E. 85th St., is sure to bring a smile to all who attend.

The three-day event will be July 27-29 from 7-9 p.m. on Friday and noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There will be a wide variety of entertainment and activities and festival's artistic director Latha Sambamurti said they expect about 20,000 people to attend this year.

Anandamela is held at Redmond City Hall, but the festival is organized by the Vedic Cultural Center (VCC) in Sammamish.

Lisa Rhodes, events and marketing administrator for the City of Redmond, said the festival is the third-biggest event held in the city after Redmond Lights and Derby Days. She said the city's role is just to provide logistics and operations support in areas such as police and fire as well as permitting and staffing on City Hall campus.

"(The VCC does) all of their own marketing and promotion," Rhodes said.

Although Anandamela has grown into the largest Indian arts and cultural event in the Pacific Northwest, Sambamurti (left) said they "aim to attract anyone and everyone of all nationalities."

"We are bringing international artists from all over the world," she said.

The Redmond resident said this year's headlining performers include Anita Lerche, a Danish singer who performs in various languages, including Punjabi, and En Karma (left), a bhangra band based in Vancouver, British Columbia. In addition, Delhi 2 Dublin (below), a band from Vancouver, British Columbia who plays a mix of bhangra, celtic, dub, reggae and electronica music will be returning for the third year in a row. Sambamurti said the latter are asked back each year based on their popularity among the local audience and are usually booked one year in advance.

There will also be a number of local singers and dancers of all ages showcasing traditional Indian performing arts as well as more modern and fusion styles.

Sambamurti said this year's Anandamela, which is partially funded by grants from the King County cultural services agency 4Culture and Experience Redmond, has been designed to be more interactive with attendees. For example, there will be dancing contests throughout the weekend — complete with secret judges and prizes.

The grand prize on the final day is a free one-week vacation to Hawaii, she said.

There will also be cooking contests in which contestants will need to pre-register and prepare traditional Indian dishes to bring to the festival to be judged.

Kids will also be encouraged to participate in various activities such as an on-the-spot storytelling contest, a pre-registered essay-writing contest and an advance research project through the Redmond Library and the festival's organizers. There will be cash prizes ranging from $50-$500 for youngsters who need a little extra push to work during their summer vacation.

For more information about contest rules or to pre-register, visit www.anandamela.org.

VCC President Harry Terhanian said this is the fourth year they have held the festival, the first year was at King County's Marymoor Park. One of the reasons for Anandamela is that about 12 percent of the area's population is of Indian or South Asian origin.

"Redmond is a multicultural community now," he said.

Terhanian added that the Redmond Arts Commission also wanted to hold a festival that would unite all demographics, which is what Anandamela does with its spirit of inclusion for all ages.

"You see that in the cooperative spirit that manifests in the festival," he said.

Terhanian said one of his goals is to bring more cultural events to the Eastside. One such event to help with this is the VCC's upcoming Flavors of India food festival to be held in Bellevue Sept. 2-3.

Sambamurti (left) is also doing her part as she said she is working to bring the Latin Film Festival — normally held in Seattle — to Redmond and the greater Eastside in October.

"I want to make Redmond a happening place," she said. "People from Seattle should come here."

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