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Friday, September 30, 2022

Thousands of students celebrate spring with color at Holi

<p dir="ltr"><span>Khem B. Banjara, a 30-year-old neuro technologist at UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital, throws paint during the UF Holi Festival of Colors, organized by the UF Indian Student Association and Student Government, on Sunday afternoon. Above, more than 1,000 people attended the event, which lasted more than three hours.</span></p>

Khem B. Banjara, a 30-year-old neuro technologist at UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital, throws paint during the UF Holi Festival of Colors, organized by the UF Indian Student Association and Student Government, on Sunday afternoon. Above, more than 1,000 people attended the event, which lasted more than three hours.

Blue, pink, green, yellow, orange, purple and red flew through the air Sunday.

And in seconds, a crowd of about 3,000 people was covered in roughly 12,000 pounds of colored powder — almost half the weight of the UF football team.

“It was beautiful,” said Manuela Kalissi, a 20-year-old Santa Fe College film studies sophomore who attended the UF Holi Festival of Color with friends.

Colored dust stained her skin and hair as they celebrated the start of spring on UF’s Flavet Field.

The festival, organized by the UF Indian Student Association and Student Government, saw its crowd size double from last year, when the festival was rescheduled for rain.

Observers of the Hindu festival, primarily celebrated in India and Nepal, mark the start of spring by throwing colorful powder in the air and at each other.

Volunteers passed out about 12,000 pounds of colored powder to attendees, said Gupta, a 20-year-old UF biochemistry sophomore. The powder cost organizers $3,000, but the event was free to attend.

Gupta said she always attended the festival in her hometown of Pensacola, Florida.

“I’ve done this every year since I could walk and throw powder,” she said.

The first 1,000 participants received a free shirt, designed by a UF student who won the shirt’s design contest. Food from Hare Krishna was also served and sponsors like the apartments West20 and The Retreat Gainesville, along with restaurants like Lollicup and Bone sh Grill, handed out fliers and hosted giveaways, Gupta said. Students placed their hands in colorful paint and left handprints on a banner for the event.

While students threw powder, a Gainesville Fire Rescue truck sprayed participants with water. Others threw water balloons passed out by volunteers and sprayed water guns.

When the powder settled, participants danced to popular American and Bollywood songs.

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Gupta said the event was moved from Hume Field to Flavet Field this year because it had more parking and a stage.

Gupta said she hoped attendees at the festival, meant to welcome everyone, learned more about Hindu culture.

“At UF, I like how it brings together so many different people,” she said. “It’s nice that other people are interested in learning about our culture.”

Contact Meryl Kornfield at mkornfield@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter at @MerylKornfield

Khem B. Banjara, a 30-year-old neuro technologist at UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital, throws paint during the UF Holi Festival of Colors, organized by the UF Indian Student Association and Student Government, on Sunday afternoon. Above, more than 1,000 people attended the event, which lasted more than three hours.

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