After more than 70 years, Derby Days has become a summertime tradition Redmond residents look forward to attending every year, but in the last few years, the Ananda Mela Joyful Festival of India has also become an event people can look forward to attending.
This year’s festival, which is free, will be from noon to 9 p.m. on July 27-28 at Redmond City Hall, 15670 N.E. 85th St. The event is put on by the Sammamish-based Vedic Cultural Center (VCC), a nonprofit whose mission is to provide experiences that preserve and promote arts, cuisine, literature, languages and more derived from the Vedas — ancient Indian scriptures.
Latha Sambamurti, the festival’s artistic director said although Ananda Mela is an Indian festival, their aim is to attract people of all nationalities and cultures.
To achieve this goal, Sambamurti and organizers are bringing in acts who will be performing traditional and non-traditional Indian music and dance, but aren’t themselves Indian.
“That’s my vision for the festival,” she said.
One example of this is Delhi 2 Dublin, a band from Vancouver, British Columbia, that has performed at Ananda Mela every year because attendees “want them back,” Sambamurti said. The band plays a mix of bhangra, celtic, dub, reggae and electronica music and features members with diverse backgrounds.
Sambamurti said next week’s festival will have many of the same attractions as they have had in the past such as live entertainment acts on two stages, food booths featuring regional Indian cuisine and vendor booths. There will also be a number of activities for children.
Many of these activities — for both adults ad children — will be participatory. Organizers are bringing back the cooking contest, which made its debut last year. Contestants will prepare and bring traditional Indian dishes and a panel of judges will decide the winner. Attendees will also be able to attend a Garba dance workshop, in which they will learn a traditional Indian social and community dance.
“It’s such a beautiful community dance,” Sambamurti said.
Activities specifically for kids include a meet-and-greet with local entrepreneurs, professors and academics of Indian origin, chess competition and science and technology projects.
New this year is an exhibit on the Ganges River, which is the longest river in India and acts as a lifeline to those living along its banks. The river also holds spiritual significance in Indian culture, Sambamurti said.
Harry Terhanian, president of the VCC, said Ananda Mela is an opportunity to showcase “the richness and diversity of the cultural heritage” of the local South Asian and Indian community.
“(Ananda Mela) creates a friendly and family oriented environment that promotes communication, understanding and community of the new demographics of the Seattle Eastside,” he said.
Terhanian said the festival also encourages Indian expatriates’ children to learn, preserve and grow their parents’ culture and provides the local Indian community an opportunity to share their culture with their classmates, neighbors and co-workers.
While the VCC organizes Ananda Mela, they also receive help from 4Culture and ExperienceRedmond.com in the form of grants. In addition providing the VCC with a venue for the festival, Sambamurti said the City of Redmond is providing the VCC with certain services and staffing on the days of the event for a fee. The city is also helping them publicize the event by including Ananda Mela information in Redmond’s summer arts brochure and utility bill inserts.
Terhanian added that Redmond City Hall is a central location with a large campus and plenty of parking.
“Above all, it is very encouraging that (Mayor John Marchione) and the Arts Commission are very favorable to host Ananda Mela as part of Redmond city’s growing signature identity as a hub for the arts and multiculturalism,” he said.