Baton Rouge's inaugural Holi Festival in 2019 drew crowds to its celebratory clash of colors. Photo by Ravi Patel.

The Holi Festival of Baton Rouge returns with a rush of color this weekend

The second annual Holi Festival in downtown Baton Rouge’s Repentance Park was supposed to be a welcome successor to its 2019 debut, an afternoon full of Indian dance, culture, food and—of course—lots and lots of color. But when a pandemic shut down the city just before those 2020 festivities were supposed to commence, the Hindu festival of spring retreated to wait for its next season. And now, from 2 to 5 p.m. this Saturday, March 12, the colors are finally making a comeback.

“We always had the date set for this year, so we waited until late October or early November to decide whether we would need to cancel again,” says coordinator Manisha Patel, president of the local nonprofit Colors of the World, which founded the event as part of its mission to promote cultural diversity. “Once we decided, we had to put it together fairly quickly!”

Photo by Kobi Nicole Wales

Patel, who grew up in Kentucky with few resources for tapping into her Indian heritage, knows how important it is to involve Baton Rouge in one of her culture’s most famous festivals. 

“Here, it may be something that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, but Holi is such a huge holiday. I figured that if I wasn’t the only one who wanted to celebrate, I had to do something to make it happen,” says Patel. “My husband, friends and committee members all helped to put it together, and the community support and trust via vendors and sponsorships has been great.”

Photo by Kobi Nicole Wales

At this year’s free, family-friendly festival that celebrates the love of the Hindu god Radha Krishna and a revelry in new beginnings, attendees can expect music from DJ Volcanic, dance performances in traditional Indian and Bollywood styles, henna art, face painting, food, drinks, and arrowroot powder color packets for purchase (don’t forget to wear white!). A portion of all proceeds will benefit the Vince Ferachi Community Garden, the Three O’Clock Project and the Global India Foundation

“I remember our first Holi festival here and how happy everyone was, and how much fun everyone had,” says Patel. “It’s a great time for kids, but also for the 85-year-olds! It was awesome, and I’m happy to introduce it to more people—that’s the whole point of diversity.”

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page. And for more on Patel and her passion for community involvement in Baton Rouge, check out our cover story from the June 2018 issue of inRegister