As thousands of revelers descended upon Girard Park in Lafayette on Saturday, the green space turned brilliant shades of blue, pink, yellow and orange — all part of the city’s annual Holi Festival.
In its sixth year, the festival has its roots thousands of miles away and hundreds of years ago in India but fits right at home in the heart of Acadiana.
The festival is a celebration of forgiveness, new beginnings and the start of spring, said Acadiana Indian Association President Vijay Kunada.
The colors — 3,000 pounds of cornstarch mixed with food coloring — are used to symbolize those things. Festivalgoers ran around dancing to the upbeat Bollywood music as they merrily rubbed, tossed and showered one another with colors.
Friends had no problems smearing colors onto one another’s faces, while many strangers would politely ask, “Can I put some color on you?”
A positive response would welcome a soft hand to the face, a rub of color and a call of “Happy Holi!”
“Everyone is a friend here,” Kunada said. “No conflicts, no enemies, just sharing the love and peace and friendship.”
Kunada said Indians have many festivals, just like Acadians, and the Acadiana Indian Association wanted to bring one to Lafayette to foster “inter-cultural understanding.”
He said he knew Holi would be a good fit as a festival for Lafayette, given Acadians’ culture and the people’s spirit of fun.
The festival has proved to be successful since its inception in 2011. For the first year, only about 200 people showed up and used about 200 pounds of color. Also, most of those attendees were Indians from the community, Kunada said.
Now the festival has over 2,000 attendees and more than 10 times as much color.
We did not realize how big it would get,” Kunada said.
First time Holi-goers Noah Anderson and Lizzie Viera said they heard through word of mouth about the festival. Like most of the other attendees, the two wore white in order to capture all the vibrant colors.
“I feel like I’m at recess,” Viera said. She said the experience was reminiscent of a food fight, only in this case, you wanted to be soaked in the colors.
As they took turns throwing handfuls of color at each other, they talked about which colors looked best.
“This is my favorite part, getting to ruin this shirt.” Viera said.
Anderson said the festival was a great fit for Acadiana because the region’s people “do a great job of bringing together cultures.”
Another festivalgoer, Ankur Lodha, was at Holi Festival with his family.
A permanent resident of Lafayette, Lodha, who is Indian, said the Lafayette Holi Festival is his favorite he’s attended in the United States.
“I’ve been to New York and Pittsburgh, but Lafayette is better,” he said.
Lodha said the Indian community may dominate the Holi Festivals in other parts of the country, but the whole community celebrates the occasion in Acadiana.
Lodha said Holi is one of his favorite festivals and he was happy to celebrate the Indian festival with his children, who were born in America.
An hour after the festival began, a quick look around and it was impossible to find someone who wasn’t enjoying themselves, old, young, human or canine. Everyone was covered in color and embracing Holi.