Festival of Colours returns to brighten Thunder Bay’s waterfront and share Indian culture | CBC News

Thunder Bay, Ont.’s waterfront was filled with laughs, music and vibrant colours Sunday as people celebrated the Festival of Colours.

The annual festival returned to the Marina Park following the Festival of India that took place Saturday. The Festival of Colours consisted of Indian cuisine and music, along with interactive dances and performers.

Many took part in the anticipated colour-throwing portions of the festival, where attendees threw bright powders into the air. The dust filled the waterfront skies with a colourful haze and turned the Marina Park’s green grass into a rainbow.

The majority of people entered the event wearing white shirts and clothes, but left covered head to toe in multicoloured powders.

Both festivals have been happening in Thunder Bay for more than a decade.

This was Nita Joseph’s first time attending the Festival of Colours. She said it was fun and she loved throwing colours on her friends.

Joseph said she is South Indian but was raised Canadian, which was one of the reasons she decided to go to the event.

Two women wearing Indian sarees dance at the Festival of India. They are wearing matching black sarees with a red drape.
Throughout the Festival of India, numerous dancers perform and some lead interactive sessions where attendees can learn Indian dance moves. (Taylor O’Brien/CBC)

“I just feel like it’s important to find fun in north Indian culture and different Indian cultures, or any other culture. I personally would find it fun,” she said.

Dr. Prashant Jani, the Festival of India and Festival of Colours organizer in Thunder Bay, said more than 2,000 people attended the Festival of India on Saturday and he expected more than 3,000 people at the Festival of Colours.

Jani said both days of the festival were spectacular and many people enjoyed the colour-throwing portions of the event.

“[Attendees can expect] lots of joy, laughter, smiles, happiness and fun,” he said.

Festival a thousands-of-year-old tradition in India

Holi, an annual Hindu festival to honour the god Krishna, is celebrated to mark the arrival of spring and the end of winter. The Hindu community throws coloured powder on themselves to worship Krishna.

Jani said the Festival of Colours is a thousands-of-year-old tradition from India.

“When we throw the colours in the wind, [this] means throw your worries into the wind and make your life joyful and colourful,” said Jani.

Jyotika Gambhir attended the Festival of Colours for the first time Sunday with her husband, Mukul Sharma, and friend, Carol Berry. Gambhir said Holi is a big festival in India, so she was looking forward to taking part in Thunder Bay’s event.

Three people stand next to each other covered in purple, yellow and orange powders after attending the colour throwing portion of the Festival of Colours.
Carol Berry, Jyotika Gambhir and Mukul Sharma, left to right, attend the Festival of Colours on Sunday afternoon. This was Sharma’s second time attending the event, while it was Berry and Gambhir’s first. (Taylor O’Brien/CBC)

“We are from India, so in India we celebrate Holi in the month of March,” she said. “Because of snow they are having this festival here in July, so we were so excited to celebrate Holi in Thunder Bay.”

Jani said the reason the Festival of Colours is so significant to Thunder Bay is because of the different elements it offers.

“People love colours, music, dance and food, of course, so it’s a perfect combination. And lots of community members support us, volunteers help us, so it’s a wonderful event.”

Local community support

This year marked Sharma’s second time attending the Festival of Colours, and he expressed his excitement over the event.

“I’m just loving it,” he said. “This feeling is great, especially the environment we get here. Everybody enjoys it. So that’s the best feeling you can get. In the summer, it’s good everywhere, just go and take [in the feeling]. It’s really great.”

Sharma said he loves the support of Thunder Bay’s local community at the festival.

“[The Festival of Colours] makes your feelings exaggerate everything, so you feel very enthusiastic and [full of energy]. And the food, and plus the support, is always good. I [am] always excited to see everything new, whatever comes here. I always love [the event].”

For Berry, attending the Festival of Colours for the first time with Gambhir and Sharma allowed her to learn about Holi.

“I’m just happy to celebrate with friends who explain what it means to them at home, to be able to share that. Now I want to go to India in March for Holi.”

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