Holi Moli celebration shifts location to Normal’s Uptown Circle, gains new support

Following Holi traditions, attendees of the April 2023 celebration arrived dressed in white attire. The participants left smeared in the vibrant hues of  colored powder.
Following Holi traditions, attendees of the April 2023 celebration arrived dressed in white attire. The participants left smeared in the vibrant hues of colored powder.
Photo Courtesy of: Big Bee Studio
Over 250 people attended Holi Moli last year on April 8 in downtown Bloomington, gathering in celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors that celebrates the arrival of spring.
The event is the brainchild of Karthika and Pritha Chatterjee, 2023 graduates and last year’s co-presidents of the South Asian Performing Arts club.

After hosting last year’s inaugural Holi Moli celebration in downtown Bloomington, this year’s event will be held in Normal’s Uptown Circle on Saturday, April 13. 

2023’s Holi celebration, sponsored by Community’s South Asian Performing Arts organization, drew several hundred attendees. Bloomington mayor Mboka Mwilambwe addressed the crowd, stating, “It’s my hope and my expectation that [Holi Moli] will become an annual event that we’ll be [celebrating]…in downtown Bloomington.”  

This year’s organizers, members of SAPA and the Asian American Pacific Islander club, cited several logistical factors for the relocation, including avoiding a scheduling conflict with a Bloomington “pub crawl” and the town of Normal’s ability to provide trash-removal services. 

Mr. Stefen Robinson, the SAPA’s faculty adviser, believed the student organization “had established a date with the city of Bloomington,” reserving the downtown square for the community celebration.

But somewhere, Robinson said, “there was miscommunication within the city,” and Bloomington approved the scheduling of “a pub crawl the day that we were supposed to have Holi Moli.”

The April 13 date “made the most sense” for Community’s students to get the best turnout for the Holi celebration, avoiding school and extracurricular scheduling conflicts. As Holi fell on March 25 this year, during Community’s spring break, postponing the event didn’t seem logical. 

The pub crawl was the main reason, Robinson said, is “why we moved the event to Uptown Normal.”

Mayor Mwilambwa, Robinson said, was “perturbed” by “the mix-up.” 

“He understands why we did it, and he was super apologetic,” Robinson said. “He’s been super cool about the whole thing.”

Mwilambwe will join Normal’s mayor, Chris Koos, in opening up this year’s event. 

“He’s coming to Normal to help kick it off this year—to unite the communities,” Robinson said. “We are bringing the cities together.”

The event’s coordinators believe the shift to Normal is in Holi Moli’s best interest, as the new location offers added benefits. 

Last year, Robinson said Holi Moli’s organizers were responsible for removing all the trash from the celebration last year. 

“Bloomington told us we were responsible for collecting and disposing of all the trash,” Robinson said. “There’s a lot of trash at a large event.”

“Mr. King,” co-sponsor of SAPA, “took all of the trash bags in his car, stuffed his car full of Holi Moly trash,” disposing of it “in his apartment complex’s large dumpster,” Robinson said, with the permission of his landlord.  

Normal, student organizer Ani Abina said, has been easy to work with.

The town will provide sanitation services for trash disposal and assist in street cleaning; last year, students spent several hours power washing colored powder from Bloomington city property.

In addition to providing clean-up assistance, the town of Normal helped the organizations establish a relationship with a new sponsor this year: the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Visitors Bureau provided $2500 of financial support, which covered the cost of the event’s promotional materials, DJ and color packets. 

The donation allows the organizations to provide over 1,000 color packets free of charge for attendees, a change from last year. 

“Last year,” Robinson said, “we had four different sponsors who gave us very generous amounts of money. But we had to coordinate a lot of things with multiple people.” 

“The Visitor’s Bureau is covering everything this year,” Robinson said, “which is awesome.”

Robinson hopes the community connections established in Holi Moli’s second year, with the Bureau and local businesses like Meltdown Creative Works, will make the event more manageable for students to spearhead in future years.  

“This should be led by the South Asian community,” Robinson said.

Robinson and King “have had to take the lead on most things because of the turnover of students.”

But, “that’s just how it goes with clubs,” Robinson said.

Robinson acknowledges that his background in event organization was crucial in launching Holi Moli. However, he now feels confident in the groundwork laid, enabling him to step back next year while ensuring the event’s continuity.

The second annual Holi Moli will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, in Normal’s Uptown Circle and runs through 4 p.m. 

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