Bloomington businesses and locals donate time and money each fall to the annual Lotus World Music and Arts Festival, with many believing the festival is an integral part of the Bloomington community.
Since 1994, the Lotus Festival has relied on community support to achieve its goal of connecting to a global community through music, according to their website.
“I think it just sums up Bloomington as a whole,” Jordan Davis, the Chocolate Moose’s director of operations, said. “I’ve never heard anyone complain about it, even people who don’t go.”
The Chocolate Moose has been sponsoring Lotus for as long as Davis can remember. The company gives a percentage of their sales to the festival each year, averaging approximately $1,000. They’ve also been organizing Lotus’ annual Food Truck Village, featuring eight local food trucks set up from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Davis and his team set up tables and chairs for local patrons — and take them down by hand.
“I didn’t get done until 2 a.m.,” Davis said, laughing. “But it’s totally worth it.”
Jeff Mease, local business owner and founder of businesses like Bloomington Brewing Company and Pizza X, said his business has organized an international food market for the festival in the past called the One World Night Market.
The event did not take place this year, but Mease remains a high-level sponsor of the event and has been since the first festival in 1994. He donates beer to afterparties and pizza to volunteers as well as giving back 20% of the beer he sells at venues.
“Really, the reason we do it is because we want to be part of this festival,” Mease said. “I can’t stop dancing when I’m here.”
Lotus relies heavily on volunteer efforts as well. Gold-shirted volunteers help distribute information, admit entrance and give directions. Spending a night volunteering allows free access to other nights, an opportunity many take each year.
Volunteering every year since the second festival, Mark Richardson said the Lotus ambiance makes living in Bloomington special. Low ticket prices and access to multiple artists in a centralized area was also a selling point. The festival is designed to let ticketholders attend as few or as many performances as they want.
“It’s like what they say about Indiana weather: If you don’t like it, wait 15 minutes and it’s bound to change,” Richardson said. “If this music isn’t up to your interests, you might go to another venue and see something else.”
Richardson also remarked on the support local businesses have given the festival — in particular, Needmore Coffee, which sponsored the biggest tent of the night.
Needmore Coffee owner Katie Mysliwiec said she knew she wanted to be a part of the festival when she opened her business. A Bloomington native, she donates money and creates a custom coffee blend, called “Backstage Blend,” each year. Needmore Coffee holds an annual coffee launch party to generate excitement for the event.
“We unveil the new blend and try to get folks to come out and give it a try,” Mysliwiec said. “Just trying to get the Lotus buzz started a little bit early.”
While Lotus brings a festival to the community, the community shapes Lotus as well. Mysliwiec said she believes the community has to be involved to put on the festival as it is. Lotus is the experience it is, Mysliwiec said, because of the community’s support.
On the last page of the program, next to red flowers and cartoon moons, Lotus leaves a note thanking sponsors and volunteers for their support:
“Thank you, Bloomington. Your generosity and talents help bring the world to our community.”