Lotus Festival to bloom again this year in Echo Park Lake

The longtime organizers of Echo Park’s annual Lotus Festival are planning to revive the event this July after municipal budget cuts forced the cancellation of the festival last year. Leo Pandac, head of Los Angeles Lotus Festival, Inc. confirmed a report in the Militant Angeleno that the nonprofit is working to stage the festival in the second weekend in July. But don’t expect the same massive, sprawling festival of years past. “We are now trying to cut costs as much as possible without compromising the dignity and the value of the event,” said Pandac, who has been part of a citizens committee that has helped organize the festival in years past. The challenge facing Pandac and others is raising about $80,000 to cover costs and figuring a way to provide many of the services once provided for free by the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. The department estimated that revenue from corporate sponsorships and donations from the Lotus nonprofit for the last festival raised $112,000, far short of the $444,000 it cost the city to state the event. Why did the group decide to revive the event this year?

Pandac said Lotus Inc – which is run out of the Pacific Asian Drug & Alcohol Program he runs in Historic Filipinotown – said they had more time to prepare and plan this year. Last year’s decision by Recreation and Parks to cancel the Lotus Festival caught him and other longtime organizers by surprise, leaving them little time to figure out how to stage the festival on their own. Last year, the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the city staged a smaller event – the Echo Park Community Festival – to fill the void left by the Lotus Festival cancellation. “You have to give them credit,” Pandac said. “They probably discovered that it’s not that easy.”

Pandac said the nonprofit is working in partnership with Recreation and Parks and has secured the rights to use the Lotus Festival name. There are plans for live entertainment, food and craft sales, Dragon Boat races and a large section for community booths. But Pandac said his group must find volunteers or low-cost alternative to perform the work once conducted by city employees. “Eighty-five percent of the budget was for personnel time,” he said. He’s also going to request that city fees to cover police protection be waived.

Despite last year’s cancellation, the Lotus Festival – formed more than 30 years ago to celebrate Asian culture – should still be able to draw a big crowd this year. “Where else can you go to a place where you have 150,000 people in two days,” he said.

This year’s Lotus Festival, however, might be the last one for a while. The city plans to start work on an $84 million water-quality clean up project at Echo Park Lake, which will require the lake to be drained and the park closed for two to four years.

Pandac said persons interested in participating in this year’s event should call (213) 413-1622.

Dragon boat photo by Tammy Manet via Flickr

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