Seeing colors: Hillsboro's Rang Barse Indian celebration is back
Hillsboro's Rang Barse Festival of Color celebration is returning for the first time since the pandemic forced its cancellation two years ago.
The annual celebration at the Fairground Sports Complex in Hillsboro invites attendees to dance, smile, and shower each other in safe and colorful dyes.
"Rang Barse" (pronounced "rung bar-say") means "colors are pouring" in Hindi, says event organizer Sushmita Poddar. Started in 2012, the event is part of the Hindu Festival of Spring, Holi. Poddar says the Indian cultural celebration has a deeper meaning, too.
"There are many reasons Holi is celebrated," Poddar said. "One is definitely to welcome spring. But my take on Holi is that people are so divided by class, caste, religion, skin color and all different things ... but we need more celebrations that bring diverse communities to celebrate together."
By the time the festivities are done, everyone is covered in brightly colored dyes, Poddar said. You can't really tell white from black, rich from poor, or Christian from Hindu. Everyone becomes part of the same Technicolor cloud.
This, she says, is the purpose of Rang Barse, specifically.
Admission to the festival is $10. Attendees receive two bags of dye — which you can select from over a dozen different pigments. The dyes are made using a cornstarch base, and the authentic ingredients come all the way from India.
You can buy more dye vouchers and, don't worry parents, it washes off. The event will also feature music, water balloons, and an Indian bazaar with stalls to buy both food and artisanal goods.
Poddar says she is expecting a larger turnout this year because of the event's return after a two-year hiatus, so there is enough color for a crowd of 2,000 people. So far, though, she says about 200 tickets have been sold, so she's really pushing for the community to come out for some dyed dancing and fun.
It's especially important, Poddar said, because the Asian community is such a big part of Washington County.
"We don't typically have big (Asian and Pacific Islander) celebrations here, even though it's about 8% of the population of Washington County," she said. "We need more celebrations that celebrate our heritage — and celebrate more Asians and people of color in our community."
It's fitting, then, that the event is held in May, which is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States. Holi is typically celebrated in March, though Poddar says that it tends to be too cold and wet to hold outdoor events at that time.
Poddar said that the spirit of togetherness, as people from all walks of life celebrate the coming of spring, makes Rang Barse a moving experience for many. And, coming out of the isolation of the pandemic, she thinks it's even more important.
"We need some color in our lives, we need some laughter," Poddar said. "If there's even a moment of the joy I've experienced, it's worth it."
The celebration kicks off at noon Sunday, May 15. It's held at the Fairgrounds Sports Complex, located at 490 N.E. 28th Ave., in Hillsboro.
IF YOU GO
What: Rang Barse Festival of Colors
Where: Fairgrounds Sports Complex, Hillsboro
When: Sunday, May 15 at noon
How much: $10
More info: https://www.hillsboro-oregon.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/104632/
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