Friday, March 26, 2010

Chalk will fly

Published: Friday, March 26, 2010 5:58 p.m. MDT

SPANISH FORK — Once a year the air in Spanish Fork fills with a cloud of colorful chalk, part of a celebration to welcome the spring. But the event has become so popular that this year the chalk will fly twice.

Last year an estimated 10,000 attended the Festival of Colors, making it the most popular event at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple. This year temple workers expect even more attendees. "Everyone who came last year will bring four or five friends," said Charu Das, the festival coordinator.

In preparation for the large crowds, the festival has been divided into two separate shows. On Saturday the festivities will take place at noon and again at 4 p.m. Both presentations will include a bonfire and throwing of chalk.

Five thousand years ago Krishna started the festival with his devotees as a way to welcome the spring. "It represents the beauty, colorfulness and fragrance of spring," said Das. Instead of flower petals, chalk is imported from India. The chalk is made out of cornstarch and scented like sandalwood.

"Last year we had 25,000 bags and sold out," said Das. "This year we have more than 50,000." Volunteers have been working for weeks to bag the chalk and prepare the temple for the event.

BYU student Carlie Bean is a volunteer at the temple, helping bag thousands of bags of chalk. "It's the biggest mess in the entire world," she said.

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Guests are encouraged to wear older clothing in case the dye stains. "It's supposed to wash out of your clothes, but my jeans are still stained," said Bean.

After an hour of music, dancing and entertainment, it is time to throw the chalk. The emcee counts down and the air fills with a thick cloud of colorful dust.

"It's really fun," said Meredith Merrill, a participant in last year's festival. "But it's sad because you run out of chalk so fast."

With so many people in attendance, the temple's parking lot fills quickly, and guests end up parking down the road and walking to the event. In order to ease the traffic and increase safety, festival workers have rented 2,000 extra parking stalls. Shuttles will run to the temple from the parking areas at Salem Hills High School, SF Sports Complex and the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds.

"We're encouraging everyone to park in the remote locations and use the shuttles," said Das. "We'd hate to have anyone injured on the way to this fun event."

The festival will take place on Saturday, March 27, at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, 311 W. 8500 South, Spanish Fork. For more information about the Festival of Colors, visit

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