This past weekend marked the beginning of spring and while the Pacific Northwest welcomed the new season gray skies and scattered showers, there was a rainbow at Redmond City Hall.
The campus played host to the third annual Festival of Color. The event was organized by the Vedic Cultural Center (VCC) of Sammamish and is to celebrate Holi, which is primarily observed in India and Nepal and was originally a religious Hindu festival but has expanded to include non-Hindus.
“That’s how we welcome spring in India,” said Redmond resident Latha Sambamurti.
Sambamurti, who was also the artistic director for the festival, said Holi also represents the triumph of good over evil and the community coming together.
During the festival, attendees were given colored powder, which they used to throw at each other throughout the day.
Sambamurti (above) said when everyone is covered in the colored powder, everyone looks the same.
“All the differences vanish,” she said.
For Sambamurti, holding the Festival of Color in Redmond is like bringing a little piece of India here.
“I’m in India,” she said about the feeling that comes over her during the festival.
Sambamurti said when she attends the Festival of Color, she sees people of all different backgrounds and ages — all having fun and connecting with each other.
“That is a special feeling for me,” she said about how the festival combines cultures.
Festival attendees have told Sambamurti that when they have gone up to strangers to smear the colored powder on them, the act of touching the other person makes them feel connected.
Lisa Rhodes, who spent about six years as the City of Redmond’s events and marketing administrator — organizing big community events such as Derby Days and Redmond Lights — before her current position as communications manager, said cultural events such as the Festival of Color and Ananda Mela (another Indian festival put on by the VCC) are important not only because they give those groups an opportunity to celebrate their cultures with the community, but they also educate the greater community about these cultures.
“I think events in general…the more the better,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said the city is always looking to work with cultural groups on these types of events. In addition to the VCC, she said in the past, they have worked with the Russian Community Center (RCC) when the group held the Slavic Cultural Festival, Yarmarka, at City Hall in 2013. Rhodes said the RCC did not hold the event this year due to the unrest in that part of the world.
While the cultural groups organize the events, Rhodes said the city provides them with logistical support. She said the city helps with police staffing, fire inspections and waste plans. The city also helps with an organization’s electrical needs and layout plans to make sure there are no safety or operational issues.
This year, the city also provided some financial support for the Festival of Color with a grant from Redmond’s Arts and Culture Commission.
Sambamurti said she is very thankful to the city — from the mayor to the arts administrators — for their support.
“They are such amazing people,” she said.