Epic Holi Rocks with Record International Crowd

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Photos: Aniket Raj Photography & Dragos Dorobantu

By Sandhya Thakkar

HOUSTON: A Houston Holi of Epic proportions rocked with an excitingly increasing international crowd, as the Festival of Colors completely blended people of different colors, backgrounds, languages, and religions into a singular sea of bopping heads and raised arms to Indian and International music.  It was a surreal experience for all ages, presented by &TV, Tara Energy and Masala Radio on Saturday, March 26 from 12-5PM, featuring Mercedes Benz of Sugar Land Mickey Singh Live Concert, and Toyota Shuttle Service.


“I loved the new layout of the event, and the new attractions” said Star Gilani, City of Sugar Land Events Manager. New this year was a walking dinosaur, new free kids rides, striking hot pink &TV booth with cool giveaways, Toyota custom printed T-shirts, foam party, color grenades, and “COLOR WARS” theme with Storm Troopers blasting CO2 into the audience! “Love that the Indian culture is finally getting attention in mainstream – this event had 35-40% non-Indians in a crowd of over 15,000 as reported on prime time ABC Channel 13 news!” said Shanthi Gala.  “Mane Mumbai Yaad Aavi Gayu.” (“I am emotionally remembering my youth in Mumbai Holi”).  “The Metro Parking and Shuttle Bus system was brilliant – I was dropped to the doorstep of the events in twenty minutes.”

“This was the first time that a crowd danced in front of the stage for all 5 hours of the event – a different, mixed and almost crazy crowd that was just excited with every Bollywood Song or Cultural Dance, every joke, every contest.  Normally, the audience sits through the first 3 hours of Performances and Pooja, and gets up to dance only at the concert 3-4 and the Battle of the DJs 4-5 PM.  But this year I had to play Bollywood and International mixes in between every performance because the audience wanted to DANCE ALL DAY!”  said emcee Sunil Thakkar.  “I gave a shout out to hordes of ‘Goras’ (Caucasians), Hispanics, African Americans, Pakistanis, and Persians.  In fact, I pulled onstage what I thought was 8 Indo Americans for the Britannia Cookie Eating Contest, and started asking them what part of India they were from.  I was genuinely shocked that only one was even from India, and the rest were from around the world.  The color powder all over them made it nearly impossible to distinguish their origin, and really that is one of the charms of HOLI.”

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Surely, Mickey Singh is virtually unknown outside of NRI (Non-resident Indians), however the international crowd went into a frenzy at each of his original songs, including “Rooftop Party”, and climaxed its screaming when he removed his shirt to wear Sunil T’s official Holi shirt and broke into popular Bollywood Songs like “Rang Barse, Zara Tasveer Tu, and Galiyan”.  Music is truly universal. Mercedes Benz of Sugar Land was the proud sponsor of Mickey Singh, DJ Ice, and his Drummer, escorting them about town in the latest Mercedes SUV, and introducing at the Holi entrance the latest Mercedes Mini-Vans!  Preceding the concert, Alings Hakka Indo Chinese Cuisine presented a Foam Party with foam cannons, color power blasters, and Co2.  Exclusive Furniture sponsored the finale Battle of the DJs featuring DJ Masti and DJ Zee.  From 12 noon, DJ Zee pulled in an enormous dance crowd under gorgeous trees, and the crowd shots were captured on Drone footage sponsored by Ramji & Associates.

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New Title Sponsor &TV gave away thousands of hot pink sunglasses while nine-year Title Sponsor Tara Energy presented a swanky stage-side VIP Tent, over 5000 bottles of free water, fun free Photo Souvenir Booth and non-stop Bollywood and Indian cultural performances: Bollywood Shake, Taal, Bollywood Dancing Stars, Jaz Creationz, Rhythm India, Andhra Mirchi, Rice Chowl Bhangra, H-town Divaz, Arya Dance Academy, US Desi Gals, Sunanda’s Performing Arts Centre, and Infused Performing Arts.  Toyota offered free car shuttles in 2016’s Toyotas, and sponsored ten bus shuttles.  Britannia gave away over 10,000 packets of their new Chocolush and Nutri Choice cookies and sponsored the deceptively fast Pirate Boat ride and giant inflatable slides. Harish Jajoo for Sugar Land Mayor gave away another 5000 bottles of water.  New York Life agent Amirali Dodhiya gave away thousands of Souvenir Sports Water Bottles and sponsored a crazy Most Colored contest.  IBhakti distributed Prasad (blessed sweets) from Siddhi Vinayak flown in from Mumbai while Zenbanx presented the walking Raptor Dinosaur.

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Because of the Easter Sunday holiday, HOLI was held on a Saturday for the first time in nine years, and may well become a Saturday event in the future with the overwhelmingly positive response.  “I had to miss work and the kids missed their dance classes, but it was worth it to have Sunday to relax after an event like Holi,” said Sudha Doshi.  “Perfect made-to-order weather beginning with a cool morning and ending with thin layers of clouds defeating the sun to take in views of the colored revelers below.”   Traditional Hindu Holi elements included Holi Pooja and Pragitya (bonfire) by the Gujarati Samaj of Houston and Hindus of Greater Houston, and Char Dham Hindu Temple and SKAI Foundation’s Rath (Chariot) of Lord Jagannath, Lord of the Universe.  ICC fueled the kid’s tenacity by selling a wide range of Pichkari’s (water guns).

A wide variety of mostly Indian restaurants stands offered delicious all-vegetarian fresh-cooked street foods: Chowpatty Express, Kurry Walah, Hot Breads, Curry Leaf, Kwality Ice Cream, Madhuram Mirch Masala, Hyderabad House, Vishala Restaurant, Satya Indian Restaurant, Great American Cookies and Biryani Pot.

While over 2500 parking spots at METRO Addicks Park & Ride relieved some of the traffic on HWY 6 and got people into the event much faster, still many insisted on waiting in line outside the venue’s limited legal 2000 parking spots which again were full near 2pm, and still others parked in illegal spots along Patterson Road, jeopardizing the fragile permissions generously granted by Harris County to host this unique event at Houston Farm & Ranch.

Masala Radio thanks over 100 sponsors, 100 volunteers, and the dream team Masala Entertainment senior management crew Munira, Rinku, Devangi, Shah, Shameet, Ruchir, Anuj, Ninad, Mayur,  Preanka, Dilip, Vikas, Meenu, Sandeep, Shreya, Krupa, Ayesha & Masood, Sunny, and Dholi Deep, 20 junior event managers, 20 Masala Radio Jockeys, and especially Eddie of Houston Farm & Ranch for yet another amazing HOLI!.  Bura Na Mano, Holi Hai!