Wednesday, March 28, 2012

HoliFest

Holi is a religious springtime Festival celebrated by Hindus. It is also known as the Festival of Colors. Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month. The main thing I know about the festival is that it is a whole lot of fun watching people throwing brightly colored pigments at each other and using super soakers and water pistols to squirt bright tinted water as well. In Orlando, a large soccer field next to the Citrus Bowl becomes home for this colorful carnage each year.

I parked on a side street on the opposite side of the stadium and walked toward the festival. The field is surrounded by a chain link fence with green mesh which blocked my view as I approached. The news had predicted a 50% chance of rain. The overcast sky meant I would be able to sit out in the open as I sketched. Last year there had been loud Indian music but this year the field was eerily silent. There was a tractor trailer bed parked at one end of the field and I assumed it would be used as a stage. I spoke to the event organizer and he said there had been a number of last minute setbacks. The DJ was running late and the truck bed was a last minute substitution for the main stage.

Only a few merchandise tents were set up. I decided the tent closest to the stage was my best bet to start sketching. Children were already soaking each other with pigments. I was wearing an old white T-shirt and old white pants that were paint rags. A teenage girl approached and hit me full force with her super soaker. I was surprised by the force of the stream. When I sat down and started blocking in the sketch, her little eight year old brother started squirting me with his small water pistol. I was able to block his shots with my hand. Once people saw what I was working on, I became Switzerland and there was a cease fire.

From the tent, they sold sodas, coconuts, colored pigments and colored water for pistols. I was surprised when the whole Psycho City Derby Girls roller derby team greeted me. Jeff Ferree and Bucky Garrabrant were there with a group of friends. Jeff pointed towards his friends in the middle of the field. "Yeay, we are the ones who look out of place." he said. But brightly splashed with pigments, they blended right in. I felt bad that they couldn't experience the full brunt of the festival. Only 20 to 30 people were throwing pigments at any given moment. That didn't stop people from having fun soaking each other in small groups. Children of the tent merchants crowded around me to see what I was drawing. Their mom stopped over and asked me the name of the blog. Rather than try to remember it all, she assigned each child a word to remember. She pointed to the oldest girl, her word was "Analog", the next girl recited "Artist", and the next girl recited "Digital". A young boy walked up and said, "What?" "Not what!" They shouted back, "World". The mom pointed to each child in quick succession and they had it down pat.

The organizer told me that they had expanded the festival to run over both days on the weekend. With this sketch done, a family got on stage and began singing a Hindu chant with drums as accompaniment. It started to rain and I decided to come back the next day. The next day it rained however and the festival was canceled.


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