Kaaya Sharma dodges yellow dust. (Photo by Adina Keeling)

Colorful powder painted the overcast sky on Saturday morning as families and friends showered each other in dust and danced to Bollywood music in Raymond Park.

Evanston resident Anne Barnes tries her hand at tossing color Saturday in Raymond Park. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

This event marked the first Holi Fest organized by Downtown Evanston, an organization supporting downtown businesses, and the Evanston Association of India, a newly formed organization devoted to celebrating Indian culture in Evanston. 

The centuries-old Indian festival celebrates the start of spring while bringing together the community for singing and dancing among clouds of colored powder. 

Despite Saturday’s chilly weather, more than 90 people bundled up to enjoy the festivities.

The Nandwana family. Dad Vikas, mom Deepika and their 9-year-old son Shivam. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

Laughter echoed through the park as friends chased each other across the grass to fling colored powder at each other. 

Mt. Everest Restaurant sold samosas and lunch boxes and music played from a speaker. 

Bindu Reddy, the former Berry Pike Café owner, created the Evanston Association of Indians last month to bring more Indian festivals to Evanston. 

There are more than 1,500 Indian residents in Evanston, and these community members have to travel to neighboring suburbs to celebrate Indian festivals, said Reddy. 

The Evanston Association of Indians also helps connect Indians in Evanston, Reddy said. When Reddy first came to Evanston, she struggled meeting other Indians, which left her feeling a little lost, she said.

Arya Bommi in a pink cloud (Photo by Adina Keeling)

Reddy wants to ensure future families don’t feel that way when they first move.

Varun Chodha attended the event with his family and said the last time he was at a Holi Fest was in India years ago. In comparison with that festival, this one “is getting there,” he laughed, adding that the fest was a lot of fun.

Victoria Reeves said she learned about the event after chatting with some Northwestern students who sat near her at a restaurant. Although she debated not coming due to the gloomy weather, she enjoyed the event.

The Sharma family: Dad Ajay, mom Shalja and their daughters Kaaya (left) and Aarna. (Photo by Richard Cahan)

“It’s absolutely incredible,” said Reeves. “I feel so incredibly embraced and welcomed by everyone.”

Ajay Sharma said in the past, he and his family celebrated Holi Festival with a small group of friends, but it was fun to celebrate with the whole community.

The festival was a big success, and he hopes that even more community members attend next year, he added.

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Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...

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