IN July, the 35th annual Lotus Festival will highlight the country of Mongolia for the first time, featuring live music, dances and entertainment from performers representing the country’s culture.
“We need to prepare ourselves for the excitement four weeks from now,” said Leo Pandac, president of Los Angeles Lotus Festival Inc., a non-profit organization that collaborates with the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks to put on the event. “I think there are a lot of things that we can learn or enjoy from the presentations of the Mongolian community.”
At a press luncheon held Thursday, June 11 at Echo Park, Bayarkhuu Dorj, consulate general of Mongolia in San Francisco spoke about the history of the country and noted that the Mongolian community in Los Angeles hovers at about 2,000.
“I hope this cultural event will be a big cultural event, [one] that other Americans cannot experience in other places,” he said.
Although Mongolia is small both in land mass (about 604,200 square miles/1.56 million square kilometers ) and in population (about 2.8 million in 2013), and although there were challenges in getting government and community to work to make the festival happen, Pandac said all the efforts paid off.
“The reward is, of course, we are showcasing something that’s new for the first time that people are not familiar with, and also bringing in a new member of the family to the festival,” he said.
The festival will be held on July 11 and 12 at Echo Park, coinciding with the traditional blooming of the lotus flower.
L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, whose district includes Echo Park, expressed appreciation for the city’s cultural diversity and how the Lotus Festival celebrates that multiculturalism.
“The Lotus Festival is one of the premiere festivals in all of Los Angeles, definitely one of the most special events, and I’m just really pleased to be part of that,” O’Farrell said at the press luncheon.
Admission to the festival and parking will be free, although merchandise at the event will not.
The Lotus Festival first started in 1972 as a collaboration between the Department of Recreation and Parks and members of the Council of Oriental Organizations and was initially called “The Day of the Lotus.” Its purpose was to spread an awareness and understanding of how the Asian and Pacific Islanders (API) contribute to American culture and surrounding communities. Since 1991, attendance each year is estimated to be more than 100,000.
The lotus flower is significant to Asian cultures and symbolizes rebirth, purity and life.
In 2012 and 2013, the festival went on hiatus due to renovations at Echo Park. When it came back last year, the Philippines was the host country.
Other API groups that have previously participated in the festival include Asian Indian, Chinese, Cambodian, Japanese, Hawaiian, Indonesian, Laotian, Korean, Samoan, Tongan, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Bangladeshi, Thai, Tibetan and Hmong.
The L.A. Lotus Festival Inc. partnered with the department of Recreation and Parks to organize the July event.
Lynn Alvarez, commissioner of the board of the City of Los Angeles Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners, noted that the city has more than 400 parks. She also pointed out the renewed appearance of Echo Park after restoration efforts and how events like the upcoming festival enhance the city’s parks.
“A park really doesn’t have a life, it doesn’t have a soul if there aren’t activities that happen within it, and the Lotus Festival is exactly that kind of event that brings a community out and really invigorates and gives life and soul to the parks that we have,” she said.
(LA Weekend June 20 – 23, 2015 Sec A pg.5)