The 31st Annual Lotus Festival sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks is coming up this weekend. The Lotus Festival began as a way "to promote an awareness and understanding of the contributions by the Asian and Pacific Islander people to our culture and to the local and surrounding communities." I'm very excited about attending the festivities but I am also terribly disappointed to learn that the lotuses that once filled Echo Park Lake are, in a word, gone. It is intensely upsetting to me. How the city could have allowed what was once the "largest lotus bed in the United States" to dwindle away to nothing is beyond my comprehension. To me it shows a lack of concern about maintaining symbols of the community's heritage and that is unacceptable.
I think I was so excited about the festival because the thought of lotuses reminded me of the month my family spent in Cambodia, walking around snacking on fresh lotus seeds bought from kids who carried around whole bouquets of them to sell. We'd tear into the spongy, alien-looking seed heads and pop the edamame-like lotus seeds into our mouths. They were everywhere, but I particularly remember a day at the riverside in Phnom Penh, sitting across from the Independence Monument with my father and brother. Cars and motorbikes and cyclos (see-cl-ohs) whizzed by us, the humidity was made bearable by a warm breeze, and it was beautiful knowing that we were thousands of miles away from home, and together.
On that note, while I will wish with all of my being for lotuses to miraculously appear for the Festival, I will keep in mind that the point of the festival is to nurture and celebrate community--the absence of lotus blossoms does not hinder that.
Friday, July 11 - 5PM-9PM
Saturday, July 12 - Noon to 9PM
Sunday, July 13- Noon to 8:30PM
Metro Bus 2, 4, 603, and the Dash Pico Union-Echo Park all run from SoDo to Echo Park on the weekend.