Is there really any better way to celebrate spring than spending a couple of glorious days in the sunny outdoors enjoying ethnic food, culturally enriching music and the camaraderie of some 80,000 other people?
Wait? What? Was that really 80,000 people?
Yep, that many people are expected to descend on Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork for the annual Festival of Colors — a two-day event where clouds of vibrantly colored chalk can be seen billowing through the sky as festivalgoers excitedly welcome spring.
I was first introduced to the festival in 2010 when my husband, Steve, and I were first dating.
Enjoying a nice lunch in Payson on a Saturday in March, I pointed out a few color-smeared kids and asked Steve if he knew what it was all about.
“It’s color fest,” he exclaimed, relating the details of the event. He’d never actually attended but suggested we check it out. After quickly finishing our lunch, we headed to his house to change into old gray T-shirts that would soon become a palette of bright, pastel colors.
What a crazy, fun, people-packed colorful couple of hours!
For those wanting to enjoy some additional spring celebration after the traditional Easter egg hunts Saturday morning, here is a quick list of practical tips and hints to make your experience even more fun.
Festival of Colors 101
• Attire: Don’t pull out your Easter outfit for this event. Instead wear a nice white T-shirt and marvel at the colorful patterns that are created.
• Accessories: Sunglasses are recommended not only for shading the sun’s rays, but also to protect eyes from “splashes” of colored chalk. Bandanas are also quite popular to protect your nose and mouth during the mass color-throwing events held every two hours.
• Money: Unless you’ve already pre-ordered your admission, colored chalk, Indian meal, and maybe even souvenir T-shirt, then be sure to bring along some cash. You’ll need it for parking anyway. Leave those debit cards at home.
• Parking: Do not park along Highway 198. The festival has provided shuttle buses ($2 for adults, free for kids) from three large parking lot locations — Spanish Fork Fairgrounds, Salem Hills High School and the fields just off the Benjamin Exit 253. Other paid lots and spaces are also available closer to the temple. For your safety and the safety of your vehicle, only park in designated areas.
• Chalk: Don’t even try to get all cheapo and sneak in some colored chalk you found online. No outside chalk will be permitted at the festival. This is to protect all the participants from possible unknown chemicals in those other colors. The main temple income, too, is from selling these colors, so help support this great annual event.
• Colors: Go ahead and splurge on buying multiple packs of the colored chalk. You’ll want to have plenty to “paint” your friends, neighbors and strangers, but then you also want to be well equipped for the big color-throwing highlights as well.
• Lunch: As mentioned earlier, you can dine on traditional Indian vegetarian food, which is another popular highlight of the festival. Meals are $6.
• Etiquette: Don’t be afraid of the colored chalk or the people flicking handfuls of color at you. It might seem intrusive, but everyone enjoys the playfulness. The festival encourages people to approach strangers and ask, “May I lovingly decorate your face and recolor your hair?” I remember people asking me for poofs and smears of purple or pink to add to their T-shirt canvas filled already with green, yellow and blue.
• Safety: Families are welcome to attend the event, but young children should be protected and kept away from the center of action, especially when the colors are first thrown. Asthmatics, too, might want to take caution to protect their airways during the color throws. (Speaking from experience, keep your mouth and nose covered well and that inhaler close at hand.)
• Avoid stains: The best thing is to thoroughly shake out all dry excess powder from clothes and hair before getting back in your car, entering local businesses and especially before showering or washing your clothes. Once the caked dry colors get wet, it is difficult to remove.
• Temple grounds: Respect the Krishna temple while enjoying the festivities. This includes no smoking, alcohol or drugs on the temple grounds. Also don’t climb anything except stairs. So don’t scale the roofs, poles, fences brass elephants or stage.