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Community Celebrates Holi at Bellaire’s First Annual Color Festival

Pooja Salhotra
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Rosecler Marmentini, Rosely Marmentini, Mila Salcedo, Tanu Grewal

Pictured (from left) are Rosecler Marmentini, Rosely Marmentini, Mila Salcedo and Tanu Grewal. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

It isn’t often that you are allowed, even encouraged, to smear colored powder on and spray water guns at your friends and family. But on Saturday afternoon, hundreds of community members gathered in Bellaire-Zindler Park to do just that at the first annual Bellaire celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of color. 

“It’s a privilege for us to be able to host this event,” Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg said at the beginning of the event, with his face and clothing already covered in colored powder. “This is easily the most colorful addition to the schedule.” 

Shetal Amin, Puja Dutta

Bellaire resident Shetal Amin smears powder on event volunteer Puja Dutta. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra) 

During the three-hour event, children and adults alike frolicked in the park, smearing non-toxic powdered color on friends’ faces while Bollywood music emanated throughout the park. Holi is an ancient religious festival that signifies the arrival of spring and the end of winter. For many, it is also a celebration of love, hope and forgiveness. During the raucous festival in India, the streets are overtaken with crowds covered in colored powder. Water guns are filled with colored water, and people from all socio-economic levels run around the streets spraying each other while also celebrating through song and dance.  

Here in Houston, annual celebrations take place in Sugar Land and Rosenberg, and some Houston-area temples also host Holi events. But there has never been a public celebration in or around the Bellaire area, prompting Bellaire resident Himanshu Upadhyaya to organize one this year. 

Suriya Mehta, Tulsi Parikh, Reese McMullen, Taylor McMullen, Ariya Parikh

Pictured are (from left) Suria Mehta, Tulsi Parikh, Reese McMullen, Taylor McMullen and (front) Ariya Parikh pose for a photo during Holi. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

“I’d been wanting to do it for a couple years,” Uphadyaya said. “It’s hard for families with young kids to go all the way [to Sugar Land] for Holi. It’s too much of a hassle.” 

Upadhyaya conceptualized the event and fronted all of the expenses, including putting a deposit on the venue and purchasing the powdered color. He then recruited several volunteers to help organize and market the event. He said the city was initially worried about the environmental impact of the colors, and they were concerned the powder could stain the park’s grass. Ultimately, they settled on using only environmentally safe and non-toxic colors and to limiting the color to a 1,200 square-foot area they covered with a plastic tarp.  

In addition to throwing color, attendees enjoyed music from a live DJ as well as dancing led by Bollywood dance teacher Kajal Desai, and singing by members of the Bellaire Bollywood singers. Kumar’s Houston, a restaurant specializing in South Indian cuisine, was onsite selling lunch. 

Bellaire Holi Festival

Attendees enjoying a colorful day at the Bellaire Holi Festival. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

Since this was the first event of its kind, Upadhyaya was not sure how many people would attend, and his team of volunteers heavily marketed the event through Next Door, social media and flyers. 

“We wanted to encourage the broader community to participate because it’s one of the most fun events in India that people look forward to every year,” he said.

By the time the event rolled around, 500 tickets had been sold. And at the outset of the event, the line to the check-in table winded its way around the park. Children 12 and under did not require a ticket, so volunteer Puja Dutta estimates that significantly more than 500 people likely attended. Upadhyaya even had to send a volunteer to a local Indian grocery store during the event to purchase more colored powder. 

“I got the sense that people were really longing for an event like this for a long time, so we are so glad we organized something,” Dutta said. “We feel very encouraged to do the event again, and we’ll probably do it even bigger and even better next time.” 

  • Payal Sheth, Aliya Ghoge

    Payal Sheth enjoys Holi with her daughter Aliya Ghoge. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

  • Anjali Kavaipatti, Reethi Kavaipatti

    Anjali Kavaipatti enjoys celebrating Holi with her daughter Reethi Kavaipatti. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

  • Arya family

    (From left) Sonya Arya, Ada Arya, Daria Arya and (front) Ashish Arya take a break from throwing color. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

  • Khandelwal family

    West U residents Guarav and Seema Khandelwal brought their children Ariyan and Riya Khandelwal to celebrate Holi. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

  • Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg

    Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg welcomes guests to Holi. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

  • Holi celebration

    Hundreds gathered in Bellaire-Zindler park to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of color. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

  • Bollywood dancing

    Kajal Desai, who teaches dance classes in West U, leads Bollywood dancing. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

  • Payal Sheth, Aliya Ghoge
  • Anjali Kavaipatti, Reethi Kavaipatti
  • Arya family
  • Khandelwal family
  • Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg
  • Holi celebration
  • Bollywood dancing

More photos

Payal Sheth, Aliya Ghoge

Payal Sheth enjoys Holi with her daughter Aliya Ghoge. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

Anjali Kavaipatti, Reethi Kavaipatti

Anjali Kavaipatti enjoys celebrating Holi with her daughter Reethi Kavaipatti. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

Arya family

(From left) Sonya Arya, Ada Arya, Daria Arya and (front) Ashish Arya take a break from throwing color. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

Khandelwal family

West U residents Guarav and Seema Khandelwal brought their children Ariyan and Riya Khandelwal to celebrate Holi. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg

Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg welcomes guests to Holi. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

Holi celebration

Hundreds gathered in Bellaire-Zindler park to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of color. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

Bollywood dancing

Kajal Desai, who teaches dance classes in West U, leads Bollywood dancing. (Photo: Pooja Salhotra)

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