Lotus: International Arts Close to Home

The 2019 Lotus festival offers a wide array of music and entertainment at your doorstep

As a college town, Bloomington has always been fairly arts-oriented and multicultural, but the annual Lotus festival puts fine arts from all over the world on full display. This year, acts included musicians from 19 different countries, including Palestine, Mexico, Bali, Brazil, Finland, France, the Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Ireland and more. The main focus of the Lotus lineup was folk music, and bands courted unorthodox techniques to create singular melodies. For example KOKOKO!, a five-man Congolese group, uses “junk” like plastic containers and engine parts to create their unique instruments. 

Crowds at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater Sunday night

Tickets for Lotus can cost as much as $85 dollars, but this year, like every year, Lotus makes less-expensive and free opportunities available for those who can’t fork over that much money. Sunday’s concert, for example, was free with a $5 dollar purchase of a pin, which is good because five dollars is expensive for just a pin, so a pin and a concert ticket? A steal. And if you can’t get into the downtown concert tents, because of their location on the square, it’s usually easy to just listen to the music from behind the makeshift barriers around the pavilions. The festival’s arts and crafts area, a staple of many Bloomington children’s childhood, supplies chalk, hula-hoops and sand art for free in case you’re either a kid bored by the music or an adult who wants a chance to act like a child without being judged. 

The arts and crafts tent, with its chalk drawings

Beyond the many regular dining options on the Bloomington square, hungry festival-goers looking for a chance to wander around while eating could descend on the various food booths and trucks that the celebration attracted. Inexpensive options included Dönner Kebab’s savory options (My personal favorite, would recommend), tangy dishes from La Problana Taco Truck, and every cheesy comfort food you could possibly imagine from The Big Cheeze. Dessert options also abounded, from BuildOn’s bake sale booth to Chocolate Moose’s homemade ice cream and Kona Ice’s shaved ice. (Pro tip: Make sure to supersaturate your ice with the flavor syrups. Otherwise, why are you paying four dollars for a cup of frozen water?) 

Like every year, this year’s Lotus festival was an event attendable for either an hour or multiple days, at any price point, and enjoy immensely.