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Spanish Fork • From the hilltop where the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple overlooks southern Utah County, incoming pilgrims to the Holi Festival of Colors stood out in their clean white shirts.
That look didn't last long.
"I didn't walk five feet past the gate before I got clobbered with dust," laughed David Klco, 54, of Park City, as he stood on the temple hill, watching as pulsating masses of multicolored people danced below, throwing "colors" on anyone and everyone, and passing body surfers uphill from the mosh pit in front of the main stage.
"I came to celebrate my daughter's 34th birthday," Klco added. "She loves this stuff. She's a rocker."
She was in the right place Saturday. The 25th annual Festival of Colors was a rock concert in technicolor, tens of thousands of people streaming into Spanish Fork for some exposure to Hindu chants and thoughts while plastering their pals and strangers with dust of many vibrant colors $3 a bag, five for $12.
"It's a place for your inner child to come out," said Robynn Kirkham, a Pleasant Grove accountant who runs a construction company when she doesn't have fluorescent yellow splatters on her temporarily purple and orange face.
The crowd was heavily weighted toward college, high school and junior high school students. But people of all ages made sometimes long walks to reach the temple, with its accompanying farm with llamas and peacocks.
Ranjan Khurana came from Boise with his wife, Anu, because friends in the Spanish Fork Hindu congregation had gushed about how electrifying the event had become.
"It's vibrant and everybody is just so cheerful," said Anu. "It's a blessing that so many people are here celebrating the colors."
Temple priest Caru Das appeared frequently onstage, exhorting crowd members to give hugs "not just to the people you came with. Hug a stranger" and not to think of themselves as ordinary.
"Each and every one of you is lovely and brilliant. No exceptions," he proclaimed. "This festival is to remind you who you are."
The colors served as a great leveler, a unifier, building camaraderie among the multitudes. "Can you tell who is a Republican, who's a Democrat, black or white," Das preached in a break between bands. "Even BYU and University of Utah students are getting along. There's no holy war here."
Just lots of people letting loose in a peaceful way.
"It's spring break so we figured we might as well try it out," said 17-year-old Meleane Uhila, who came from Layton with her friend Marissa Floves.
Like many of the little kids who had a ball this day, Phoenix Green, of Magna, took particular delight in sneaking up from below and hitting people with handfuls of color when they least expected it.
Of course, he was filthy, too.
"This is the only time this OCD mom allows him to get dirty," said his mother, Keirstin Osness, who also turned a blind eye to her older son, Ian, pasting his little brother at point-blank range. "Here he gets to throw things at people and not get in trouble."
Injuries from a paragliding accident last year didn't deter Brodie Worsencroft, 21, of Tooele, from fully engaging in the festivities. "Someone in a wheelchair can do a lot more than people think," he said.
But he wisely stayed at the fringe for the 1 p.m. "throw," when the whole crowd tossed colors in unison after a dramatic countdown.
Being in the middle of a throw is not for the faint of heart. "You may not see for seven minutes, breathe for three, and in a few days, purple stuff will come out of your nose," Das warned.
That didn't scare many people away from the center, where most followed his other advice: "As soon as you can breathe, start dancing."
The scene is likely to be similar Sunday, when the Festival of Colors continues from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Holi Festival of Colors will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork.