Holi Wars? Peace-Loving Holi One Color Festival Organizers are Feuding With Competitors

Next month, the Holi One Festival makes its first U.S. landfall in Miami, aiming to draw crowds of neo-hippies to Wynwood to celebrate the vague concepts of peace, togetherness, and "the color of everyday life."

But behind the clouds of rainbow-colored dust, the business of Holi festivals is anything but peaceful.

See also: HOLI ONE Color Festival Makes First U.S. Visit in Miami

Commercial Holi festivals began in Europe, taking inspiration from traditional Indian celebrations, the Wall Street Journal reports today. Five Berlin men teamed up to put on the first events in Germany.

But if there's one thing that's capable of breaking up an atmosphere of peace, love, and understanding, it's cold hard cash. A "dispute over business" led the core team of organizers to split into two factions: One calling itself the Holi Festival of Colors, and another, the Holi One Color Festival that's coming to Miami next month, led by Stephan Dau. Now, they're racing to bring the Holi concept to the rest of the world, hoping to beat the other guys to the profits before tossing colored powder into the air becomes as laughably retro and cliched as a foam party.

There's a ton at stake; the WSJ points out that Holi festivals rely on low-cost color packets for entertainment, rather than more expensive acts like big-name musicians or DJs. European Holis can draw up to 10,000 attendees, and leave organizers with as much as an 80 percent profit -- totaling $500,000, according to a German event manager who's worked to set up Holis on a local level.

So not surprisingly, the guys working to bring these lovefests to locations around the globe are pulling some pretty cutthroat stunts behind the scenes. Holi One, led by Dau, objected to the trademarking of Holi Festival of Colors' name with the European Union, claiming the phrase "festival of colors" was universal. Dau also went after the vendors of his competitors' colored powders, claiming the packets were improperly labeled and insinuating the substances inside were unsafe until a court ordered him to stop.

Unsurprisingly, Hindu groups are pissed at the misappropriation and commercialization of their culture, especially when the business practices behind it directly contradict its themes of togetherness and love.

"I'm afraid that's not the real model of their business," Radj Bhondoe, chairman of the Hindu Council of the Netherlands told WSJ. "Their business is business. It's making money."

Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.

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Ciara LaVelle is New Times' former arts and culture editor. She earned her BS in journalism at Boston University and moved to Florida in 2004. She joined New Times' staff in 2011.
Contact: Ciara LaVelle