The best in the world come together every year at the Lotus Music Festival for a celebration in social, cultural, and musical diversity. This year's festival began Wednesday with a kick-off concert at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., and will continue through Sunday. \nWhile some of the events in the festival are free, the main music showcases Saturday and Sunday are not. The price of admission is $20 for a one night or $35 for a two-night pass. The venues for the various performances are: Buskirk-Chumley Theatre; Blue Marble Dance Tent at Showers Plaza; First Presbyterian Church, 221 E. Sixth St.; First United Methodist Church, 219 E. 4th St.; Monroe County Public Library, 303 E. Kirkwood Ave.; John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium, 122 S. Walnut St.; and Second Story Nightclub, 201 S. College Ave.\nA small Midwestern town like Bloomington might seem to be an unlikely setting for a festival of this magnitude. But the efforts of Lee Williams, executive director of the Lotus Education and Arts Foundation, have turned a relatively minor event in 1994 into a much larger event, exceeding the expectations of its originators.\nBecause of Lotus Fest, Bloomington is now a major stopping point for what some consider the world's best musicians. But Williams is quick to be humble about his achievements during the last six years. \n"Herman Wells made the IU, and consequently, the Bloomington, community as diverse and as responsive to diversity as it is today. His efforts have definitely made my job a lot easier," Williams said.\nIt hasn't been easy for an organization with a low budget to bring the best in the world together for a couple of nights. \n"We collaborate with the World Music Festival in Chicago. We have built a good relationship with them over the past couple of years," he said. "We get several musicians to come here through them." In return, the musicians get the exposure in the Midwest that they otherwise might not have gotten.\nThis year's festival includes more than 100 musicians from 17 countries and features vocalists such as blues legend Odetta and the Azerbaijani genius Alim Qasimov. Lotus Fest has lured more great vocalists this year than ever before, said Moira Smiley of the musical group Vida. \n"I love the top quality performers," said Smiley, founder of the four-member group. "Catching all of them together is fabulous. We really get influenced by what we see."\nJust as Vida is a regular entry at the Lotus Fest, so is the solo versatile Indian musician Srinivas Krishnan, who has performed with Sting and Peter Gabriel. Like almost every other musician performing this weekend, he has nothing but praise for the event and its organizers. \n"Lee (Williams) had a strong commitment toward bringing the best in world music to Bloomington," Krishnan said. "He worked very hard to get sponsors and to make Lotus what it is today. Whenever I see someone like him I will do my best to help him out." \nKrishnan has performed at the Lotus Festival regularly since 1994. He is a tabla performer and will be performing with three of India's best classical musicians.\nThe festival is also highlighted by numerous free events. The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival celebration at the Collins Living and Learning Center at 7 p.m. today is one such event. The classical Chinese music group Music from China will perform tonight and mooncakes, a Chinese specialty, will be served. \nThe Lotus Music Festival is also collaborating with the Ryder Film Series in making film a part of this year's festivities. This collaboration has been going on for six years. Peter LoPilato, director of the Ryder Film Series said he is and is an ardent supporter of the festival. \n"The Lotus Fest is a contributor to the vitality of the community in terms of the diversity of the people and the music. It's truly a great social scene," said LoPilato.\nThe film being shown is "Genghis Blues." The screening will take place at 8 p.m. today at the Laughing Planet Cafe. Admission is $3.50.\nThe film is a unique chronicle of throat singing from the tiny Republic of Tuva, sandwiched between Mongolia and Siberia. The film explores the life and art of Paul Pena (possibly the only throat singer born outside Tuva), and his travels in Tuva.\nFor more information on the Lotus Music Festival, visit www.lotusfest.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.