Whose Lotus Festival is this anyway?

The city was unable to save the Echo Park lotus plants from a mysterious disease or the Echo Park Lotus Festival from budget cuts. It seems that the only lotus-related thing left for the city to protect now is the name, Echo Park Lotus Festival. That’s triggered some confusion, tricky marketing maneuvers and even a hint of legal action.

It is illegal to use the name of the non-existent festival, which is the property of the city, for private purposes without permission, said Debby Rolland, a regional superintendent with the Recreation and Parks Department. Echo Park photographer Martin Cox learned this first-hand today when he sent out an email promoting t-shirts and other products he was selling online bearing the photo of a lotus flower and the words “Echo Park Lotus” underneath. “Just in time for the anniversary of the Lotus Festival,” read his email. But Cox shut down his online Echo Park lotus shop today after receiving what he said was a “strongly worded message” from Rolland warning that he did not have permission to use the festival name.

Rolland, who alerted the City Attorney about the t-shirts, concedes that it is okay to use a photograph of the lotus. What’s problematic is that Cox used the words “Lotus Festival” to promote his own products. “It’s a pretty picture. He can publish [photos of the] lotus. He just can’t say ‘Lotus Festival.’ He’s advertising based on the festival.”

The name issue also proved tricky when it came to promote the upcoming Echo Park Community Festival, which was created to fill the void left behind by the Lotus Festival. The organizers of this more modest event scheduled for the second weekend in July have struggled to make it clear that they are not the Lotus Festival, which would attract tens of thousands of visitors a day. However, their promotions make reference to a Lotus Children’s Area. That’s OK, said Rolland, because the city is paying for those children’s activities.

But the biggest confusion might happen on the second weekend in July when all the Lotus Festival fans who have not gotten the word that the event has been canceled descend upon Echo Park Lake to find no dragon boat races, fireworks or lotus.

Top photo by Tammy Manet via Flickr; middle image from Martin Cox; bottom image from Echo Park Community Festival web site

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