For anyone walking by on Saturday June 2nd, the scene on the Village Green in Summit New Jersey was striking! Bright beautiful colors flying haphazardly in the air while people danced to lively music and enjoyed authentic Indian cuisine. This was the setting for the Second Annual Summit Area YMCA celebration of the Holi Color Festival, a traditional Hindu festival in spring.
Events like the Holi Color Festival are just one example of the Y’s dedication to diversity and inclusion. The Summit Area YMCA is committed to creating a culture in which welcoming practices are integral to everyday operations. The Y welcomes and engages all people from all diverse groups of the community to create impactful, lasting and meaningful change. The Y is made up of people from all walks of life who are joined together by a shared commitment to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.
With over 450 registered guests from all over the tri-state area attending, in addition to guests joining on the day of, the color festival brought together individuals of all backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities to celebrate the arrival spring. Holi Color Festival also celebrates the triumph of good over evil, the joy of friendship and equality for all. The festival is popularly known around the world for the bright colored powder, or gulal, that festival goers throw on each other. The throwing of the colored powder is derived from the legend of Krishna; whose skin was dark blue. To make Radha love him, Krishna mischievously colored her face to make her similar to himself.
“I recognized that there was a need of an event where I could bring not only Indian community together, but have others recognize our tradition and celebrate with us. I work for the Summit Area YMCA, an organization whose mission and cause is to strengthen the community through welcoming and inclusive practices, and providing programs and services that can educate and heighten understanding of various cultures. I chose Holi for the Summit Area YMCA as an event to bring to the community, as it is a holiday that can be celebrated by all cultures and classes in both America and India. The main purpose was to celebrate diversity and inclusion of all the groups in the community. This would not only create an opportunity for the Indian Summit residents to celebrate their festival in their own community; it would also be a good example of cultural exchange.” said Urvashi Patel, Summit Area YMCA Human Resources Associate and Holi Color Event Planner
Y volunteers and staff sold bags of biodegradable, organic color in choices of vibrant blues, yellows, oranges, greens, hot pinks and reds. All colors sold were non-toxic and made from cornstarch, rice and flour. Four of the colors chosen had special symbolism too: Red reflects love and fertility. Blue represents the blue of Krishna. Yellow is the color of turmeric (used for not only cooking, but medicinally and is also viewed as auspicious and sacred in Indian culture) and green symbolizes spring and new beginnings. Participants were encouraged to dress in white so the powered colors would stand out best on their clothing.
“We don’t have anything like this in our town, so we’re so happy that the Summit Area YMCA holds this event” – said Katan and Dipti, participants at the Holi Color Festival from a neighboring town.
The festive day began with Bollywood and fusion hits blasting across the Summit Village Green as families and friends threw and covered each other from head to toe in bright powdered color. Even some furry four-legged friends got covered in color! Music was provided by DJ D & S Event Solutions for Music, and YMCA Dance Instructor Mimi Stella led a group in Masala Bhangra, a high-energy folk dance. Children threw water balloons and played with water guns. Delicious authentic Indian food from Amiya Restaurant was sold including favorites like Chicken Kati Roll, Vegetable Paneer Kathi, Vegetable and Chicken Biryani, Samosas and Mango Lassi, a cooling drink made with yogurt and sweet Mango.
The festival went from 11am to 2pm and the spirit at the day was contagious as more and more participants joined in as the event proceeded into the afternoon. Many unfamiliar passerbys stopped to ask questions and found themselves buying color and becoming fully engaged in the festivities!
“For me, I grew up celebrating Holi with friends and family and had missed that feeling the first two years that I was in United States. But thanks to Y and Urvashi, my happiness had no bounds when I came to know about Holi celebration in my own town!! I danced, sang, ate delicious food and met up with old friends and made so many new friends. Here is to friendship and inclusivity!” - Simmi, Summit Area YMCA Holi Color Festival participant.
The Holi Color Festival is part of the Diversity, Inclusion and Global Innovation (DIG) Network in which the Summit Area YMCA belongs. DIG is committed throughout the year to providing programs, events and services to the community that are welcoming to people from all nationalities, cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds.
On June 15 at Columbia Park in Berkeley Heights, DIGS and the Summit Area YMCA will sponsor Celebrate Pride where you can enjoy games, performances, visit information tables and more. Visit www.thesay.org/celebratepride for more details. To learn more about our DIGS network and what it does, go to http://www.thesay.org/DIGS
Didn’t make the Holi Color Festival this year? Experience the event through pictures by visiting: www.thesay.org/holipics
The Summit Area YMCA is one of area’s leading 501c3 organizations. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need. To strengthen your community and provide others with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive, make your tax-deductible donation today at www.theSAY.org/give.