Lotus Festival: Volunteer or Attendee? How about both!

Let me begin by briefly introducing myself as Sula, one of Gathering’s new interns for the fall season! I’m a senior at Indiana University, Bloomington, studying Arts Management, and I’m very excited to become involved with Gathering.  But now onto the topic of this post–Bloomington hosted Lotus World Music & Arts Festival this past weekend!

This was the 20th anniversary of Lotus, which is a festival that celebrates diversity, beauty, and joy of music and arts from cultures around the world.  This was my third year both attending the festival and working as a Lotus volunteer.

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One of the venue tents, full of music and dancing

One reason I love Lotus is that it has something for everyone.  The festival is a great opportunity to hear the sounds from cultures around the world, and the variety of music is a wide range of genres and styles.  Besides music, there is visual arts, workshops, interactive art projects, food vendors, street artists and musicians, hula-hoopers, parades, the list goes on for miles.  The festival also offers free events so all of the general public has the chance to attend! Another reason why I love Lotus is that the attendees span across all ages and demographics, from little childern to the elderly, from Bloomington locals to those who come from out of state.

Mr. Taylor and His Dirty Dixie Band steps down from the stage to engage with audience members.
Mr. Taylor and His Dirty Dixie Band steps down from the stage to engage with audience members.

This year I attended the festival on Friday evening.  I enjoy wandering the streets of downtown Bloomington and jumping from venue to venue to see a wide range of music.  It’s good to keep an open mind and be willing to listen to something unfamiliar because you may suprise yourself; you never know if you will like it unless you try.  This year I got a taste of DakhaBrakha‘s Ukrainian “ethnic chaos,” Funkadesi‘s Indian, Latin, African, and Caribbean grooves,  Janusz Prusinowski Trio‘s Polish village music, and that’s just to name a few.

Roberto Fonseca, a Cuban jazz pianist, jams out at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre on Saturday night.
Roberto Fonseca, a Cuban jazz pianist, jams out at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre on Friday night.

This year I worked on Saturday at the merchandise tent in 3rd Street Park. As a volunteer, it’s amazing to see so many people donate their time and energy to put on a great festival.   Every year the people I meet volunteering are friendly, and the attendees acknowledge your efforts by giving thanks.  A major incentive for volunteers is getting free entry to the festival on one day of your choice! I highly recommend it.  Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and the festival, and an opportunity to be part of something greater than yourself.

Fellow volunteers and I (on the left) working at the merchandise tent

Lotus Festival reminds me that music and arts can be geographically boundless and break down barriers; it doesn’t matter what language you speak, how old you are, rich or poor, what background you come from, or what culture you grew up with.  Everyone at the festival shares something, and that is a love and appreciation for the arts, whether it be a dedicated 15 year attendee or someone attending for the first time to experience something new.  Music and art has the power of bringing people together.

Lotus, you’ve been good to me.  Until we meet again.

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