The Festival of Colors celebration is set for May 12 at Hillsboro's Fairgrounds Sport Complex.

PAMPLIN FILE PHOTOS 2015 - The celebration provides all festival-goers with organic colors imported from India along with drinks and food.Swirling clouds of red, green and blue will blanket Hillsboro this month, as hundreds gather to celebrate the yearly coming of Spring.

The Rang Barse Holi Festival of Colors returns to Hillsboro on May 12 at the Fairgrounds Sports Complex, 490 N.E. 28th Ave., where bodies will be showered in color to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of color from noon to 3 p.m.

Organizer Sushmita Poddar has planned the yearly celebration since it began six years ago. The festival draws nearly 1,000 people each year.

In India, Holi marks the onset of spring. Poddar said the festival helps breaks down social barriers where everyone is covered in the same colors and get together to celebrate the joy of a new season.

"The festival creates a sense of community, because there are no strangers at the end of the event," she said. "For those three hours, every individual is a canvas for someone else, be it 2 years old or 90 years old. The vision is to bring together people of all cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds, regardless of age, gender and orientation, in celebrating a fun festival that has its roots in India."

STAFF FILE PHOTOS - A celebration of Holi, the Hindu Festival of Color will take place at the Fairgrounds Sports Complex on May 12. The cost to attend is $14 plus a minimal service fee.The city's Fairground Sports Complex is located near the Washington County Fairgrounds. Tickets to Rang Barse are $14 plus a minimal service fee, Poddar said.

All festival-goers will receive organic colored powder imported from India. The colors used in the celebration represent diversity in the community, Poddar said.

Food and drinks will be available at the celebration, along with a Bollywood DJ.

People are encouraged to dance and have fun with family, friends and strangers, many who go on to become new friends, Poddar said.

Attendees return for the festival year after year and the city of Hillsboro's parks department has supported the event since its inception.

"They have very graciously encouraged us to continue hosting this event," Poddar said. "They also provide us with space and some funding to do the same. We are truly grateful to them for all the help and encouragement to foster a vibrant, diverse celebration."

Poddar moved to Hillsboro in 2002 from India. She attended college at Portland State University and earned degrees in marketing, advertising management and food industry management. In 2007, she started two small businesses, Bollywood Movez Dance Studio and Amrapali Indian Boutique. She then added Salon Amrapali and Amrapali Events in 2010.

"I have lived in this area for a long time now," Poddar said. "Organizing this festival is one way in which I can give back to the community I have lived and worked in."

Aside from Rang Barse, Poddar hosts workshops and events around the area to promote Indian culture and traditions, including dance and henna. She also helps other organizations with events that want to showcase and highlight India at their events.

Located in Hillsboro, Bollywood Movez offers Bollywood dance classes to children and adults. Dancers perform in and around Portland and also in India. Bollywood dance incorporates various dance forms including hip-hop, jazz, ballroom, Latin, Indian classical, Indian folk and Bhangra, she said.

Bollywood Movez also teaches Bolly-Robics, a combination Bollywood and aerobics class, as well as belly-dancing.

Poddar said she is inspired by the Festival of Colors. Seeing the joy on rainbow-colored faces, non-judgmental demeanors, unbiased attitudes, loud laughter and adults being able to bring out the child in them is great she said.

The festival allows children and adults to interact at the same level, and with plenty of hugs and cheers, Poddar said it's always a good time.

"It allows me to believe that we have more in common than not," Poddar said. "That we are all in this together if we allow ourselves to be. We can, together, create a unified community that is accepting, understanding, vibrant in its diversity yet unified in its culture."

Past celebrations have been warmly received by people from the tri-county region and that is the reason Poddar continues to put Rang Barse on every year. Poddar said she plays around with the timing of the event to ensure perfect sunny weather each year.

Potter said she has big plans for the yearly festival. She hopes to make it the biggest cross-cultural color festival in the Northwest and said she'd like to bring together community members from all counties, cities and regions in the state to celebrate one festival under one roof.

For more information, call 503-928-3336 or visit

By Mandy Feder-Sawyer
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