More police at Festival of Colors this year

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Police presence at this weekend’s Festival of Colors will increase from last year since the Utah County police and festival managers at the Hare Krishna temple signed a new contract, approved by the Utah County Board of Commissioners.

The new contract stipulates the police oversee off-site security and traffic in exchange for $10,000. The previous contract, which ran for three years, cost the festival just $1,700. The increased cost gives the police free range to do what they deem necessary to protect the public.

Last year, the festival’s crowd of nearly 50,000 necessitated that two officers at the event call in reinforcements. This year, there will be eleven officers at the event.

While officers deal with traffic control, festival managers deal with parking. This year, the festival is spending about $3,000 to rent more parking spaces that festival-goers can use for free and about $6,000 on more buses to shuttle people back and forth. This is double the amount from last year.

“Safety is our primary concern,” said Vai Warden, a festival manager.

To ensure the safety of participants, the festival managers discourage festival-goers from parking on the side of the road, jaywalking and stopping their cars in the middle of the street to drop off passengers. Sergeant Spencer Cannon, an officer from Utah County Sheriff’s Office who has covered traffic control at the event for the past several years, said while there is a lot of traffic congestion during the festival, it is still safe.

“It at times gets completely gridlocked. … We have people who will stop in the traffic lane to drop people off, and that adds to the traffic,” he said. “And there’s one traffic light where pedestrians tend to ignore when they’re supposed to stop … but the pedestrians generally are fairly well-behaved.”

Some neighbors complain of the temporary inconvenience, but others make money by renting their land as parking spots for $5. Charu Warden, another festival manager, said those who complain do not understand the purpose of the festival.

“We do it because it has potentially transformational effects,” Charu Warden said.

He said by chanting Hare Krishna’s gods’ names and enjoying the moment, festival-goers can leave their worries about school, work and more at the door, focusing instead on what really matters.

“They can focus instead on their horizontal relationships with their fellow living beings and taking their awareness of God to a higher level. It’s a truly transformative break in the mundane routine,” Charu Warden said. “A lot of people need this festival to get them through the next few months of the year.”

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