New Vrindaban Festival of Colors

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Words and Photos by Ryan Neeley

When it comes to unrestrained celebration, the devotees at New Vrindaban’s Palace of Gold in the hills of northern West Virginia really know how to throw a party.
About 1,000 people attended the Festival of Colors, also known as Holi, a festival celebrated by Hindus in India and throughout the world as a “celebration of life.” As part of the celebration, participants throw colored, scented powder at each other and in the air, showering all of the participants in a blanket of color.According to Vrindavana Das, the festival organizer, “Although it has a root in religion, the festival is not a religious festival, but a festival for everyone – all classes of people from different backgrounds are invited to join us in this celebration of life.” “It’s a festival for people who want to enjoy their life and share love for each other.”

As my family and I made our way into the event, we were greeted by a sea of humanity smeared in the colors of the rainbow. My son immediately grabbed a bag of colored powder and went to work bombarding everyone around. We made our way to the stage area, where the bands were playing, and as I scanned the crowd, I noticed that it was a delightful mix of young and old, the rich and not-so-rich, hippies and yuppies, devotees and non-devotees, all laughing and smiling while dancing to the music.

And the bands really delivered to the audience, which could have been difficult due to the wide range of tastes and age groups present. Unfortunately, we missed the first two acts of the afternoon, local group Triadelphia and TK and the Namrock Band, but I heard that they really got the crowd grooving.

We were able to catch Jai Krishna and the Ananda Groove, a Utah group that has done “the past 10-12 festivals in Utah,” according to their lead vocalist and namesake Jai Krishna. “The festival in the U.S. started in Utah, and we had about 300 people the first year, 1,000 the next, and now we have 80,000+ participating.”

Seeing this group play was a very unique experience, with bagpipes, bamboo flutes, chanting, washboards, and just about anything else that made noise becoming an instrument for them to experiment with, much to the delight of the crowd. Not to mention that they have such a calming, peaceful aura about them that rubs off on those around them.

The next band to hit the stage was the up-and-coming Wheeling-area jamband KR-3 – Tim Boyd (lead/vocals – formerly of The Trainjumpers), Eric Stone (drums),Alex Wodarski (bass), and Travis Hoard (keys) –KR-3 has been in existence since 2004, but the band took it’s current form in January of 2012 when Hoard and Wodarski joined the KR-3 team, “and we embraced the jamband scene, as that’s where our music was taking us,” said Boyd in a recent phone interview. “The jamband fans don’t seem to analyze everything as much, and are willing to just cut loose and have fun with the band instead of standing in a corner with the arms folded, analyzing each note.”

And the crowd , painted in colors and dripping with sweat from dancing, seemed to agree, digging the group’s extended psychedelic guitar licks and lyrics with actual substance. Be on the lookout for a release coming from KR-3 soon, called Fractures and Sparks. “It really reflects where we are currently as a band,” Boyd added.

The devotees at New Vrindaban did a fantastic job organizing this event, the first of its kind in the Eastern US, with exotic food, beautiful surroundings, and most of all ACCEPTANCE, a virtue not normally witnessed enough in some religions today. My family and I learned a great deal about their culture, and had a great time doing so, and look forward to coming back year after year to “celebrate life” in this special way.

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