12,000 Flock to Masala Radio’s Holi


A crisp & cold morning unfolded into a bright sunny day for Masala Radio 98.7 FM’s Houston Holi Festival of Colors on Saturday March 4.  For the first time, the 14th Annual Festival of Colors was held at a real ranch – BH Ranch – located on the fringe of Southwest Houston.  The curious crowd continued to pour in wondering what it would be like to celebrate HOLI alongside horses, ponies, sheeps, goats, and camels… and they LOVED IT!!
Revelers swarmed in gleeful pockets around the ranch: jam-packed in circular performance zone with 25 foot high sound & video screens, hiding and throwing colored powder among the winterized trees lining an idyllic pond in the center, or enjoying the shade of the giant food court pavilion of exotic Indian and fusion street foods.
Over 12,500 graced Houston Holi, with the numbers peaking at around 2pm and ending with a concert by Bollywood siren Kanika Kapoor.  Easing in with her early hits of Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan & Baby Doll, she quickly stepped up the beats with back-to-back bhangra covers, ending with a jolting mix of Jugni, Lovely, and Oo Bolega ya Oo Oo Bolega, causing a frenzy of dancing and hands in the air.   Youths of every color became one as everything else seemed to disappear except the bountiful notes, colored smoke bombs, colored powder dust and a rainbow of confetti.
The massive stage and giant speakers felt like the set of a Bollywood song shoot, and at 12 noon emcee Sunil Thakkar’s loud voice announced “before the mad dancing begins, let’s start with a Holi pooja with our community elected leaders and sponsors, led by priests from Shiv Shakti mandir. In this Holi fire, first lets burn our negative thoughts and then … lets burn some calories.”  DJ Nish dropped a crazy track and the youthful energetic crowd started to come alive after a long cold winter.   Colors and hands were flying in the air.  I was caught up in a hypnotic moment of senses.  My mind and body started to give into the sights and sounds of the festival and I felt elevated in a spirituality remix.  Sandhya Thakkar smiled, “This is why we do this.  We want to share the colors of our mystical Hindu culture with everyone in Houston.  With colors on our bodies, we look like one another, and start to celebrate life without judgement, without barriers.”
Shayan & his guitar filled the air with love songs.  In between the amazing local dance school performances was The Battle of the DJ’s  between popular Indian DJs Boyd, Nish, and Zee, vs  the non-Indian DJ Tazmayne spinning Bollywood EDM and all vying for the greatest audience response.  Sunil T invited a few excited non-Indians to dance onstage with DJ Tazmayne and joked “not only can these guys Bhangra, but they are jumping so high they will fall off the stage!.”  Non-stop music & color rave continued until the very very end with a rap set by first Omerican and then Rap Star Bali with his version of Apna Dor Ayega.
The kids had their own Bacha Party on the other quieter side of the pond, with free camel rides, pony rides, petting zoo, carnival ride and a giant T-Rex slide. There were some lines, but hey it was free!  Wedged in between these two zones, just before the Street Foods Pavillion, was a surprise – first time at HOLI – the Eden Resto & Bar Hookah Lounge with a DJ pool party.  I couldn’t believe youths actually dipped in the pool with their clothes on to the beat the afternoon heat, while  the adults partook of paan-flavored hookahs on a raised patio.   Honest, Mirch Masala, Nirmanz, Bawarchi & Peacock Restaurant served up the best of hot and fresh Indian street foods and kept the long lines moving smoothly.  Picnic tables and chairs dotted the shaded green spaces nearby.  Honest Restaurant introduced a delicious fusion potato on a stick, and everything was completely sold out by 3PM. “We ran to the restaurant to stock and again sold out a second time…what a crazy rush!”
By 2pm there was so much color in the air that the sky looked was covered in pink clouds.  The scene was just magical.  Is this how Radha & Krishna felt when they were playing Holi & the gods showered colors upon them?  Local deputies did a great job to try and move the chocker blocked traffic, although many arriving after 1 struggled to find parking as even the overflow lot was completely full.  Sandhya Thakkar said “This is the BEST Holi ever… except the fact that all parking got full and so many people could not get in.  Next year we will arrange for more parking.  We had been announcing on the radio to please carpool and come early.  Those that came before 1 or after 2:30 had no trouble with the parking.”
Sunil T kept the crowd pumping interjecting with euphoric sponsor giveaways from the stage that extended right in the midst of the dancing crowd.  While Sam of Eden gave away colorful caps, Zee5 gave away 1,000 kulfis, a  360 video experience, and a free month’s subscription.   Nitya Iyengar of Zee5 gushed, “it was my 4-year old son’s dream to ride a pony, and it was fulfilled at Holi of all places, something he’ll never forget! We have been sponsoring Holi for years, but this crowd interaction was above par.” Ramji Law Group’s Arshad Ramji gave away hundreds of white Holi Tshirts.  Umang Mehta representing Deep Foods & Dabur – premier brands from India – gave away over a hundred bags filled with Indian cookies & snacks.  National award winning life insurance agent Amir Dodhiya gave away cricket bats.  Ali Shekhani for Constable Precinct 3 gave away $2000 in gift cards to the most colored folks in the audience.  In an era of gouging prices, it was incredulous that Bob’s Lounge / Lopes Lounge gave away over 10,000 bottles of water.
Following a tradition of community organizations involvement, Gujarati Samaj of Houston managed the official color booth – organic skin safe Holi powder in bright colors – red, pink, orange, yellow, and neon green.   India Culture Center & Intl Hindi Association sold modern pichkaris – water guns – with Water Monsters stationed conveniently next door.  HGH featured Rice University Students who spread awareness about early Cancer Screening.
The Thakkar’s faced many challenges moving Houston Holi to a new venue and new date just 28 days prior to March 4th.  Without Divine support especially for the beautiful weather, and the Crazy Masala Crew, it just wouldn’t have turned into the best Festival of Colors ever!  Kudos to: Office Management: Rinku, Bhavisha, Rishi, Chaitali, Aahil & Jigzz.  Event: Ruchir, Ninad, Mrugesh, Dinesh, Alisha & Simran T.  Ticketing: Sangeeta, Lauquel, Amit, Vyoma, Shivangi, Sonal & Jyotsana.  Stage: Haroon, Yumna, Dilip, Suji, Rajoo, Josh, Anish, Sahil, Mehran, Shilpi, Harshin, Priyanshi, Simran J & Esha.  Radio Jockeys: Priya, Ina, Pankti Bijal.  Photo & Video: Gaurav Hariyani Studios.  Photos & Videos will be updated on HoustonHoli.com / Facebook & Instagram MasalaRadio98.7FM.