Kelowna Vaisakhi festival draws thousands

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Kelowna Vaisakhi festival draws thousands
WATCH ABOVE: On Saturday, thousands of people packed the streets of Kelowna to celebrate Vaisakhi. Neetu Garcha was there and tells us why the holiday is so important and what it means to the Sikh community in the Okanagan. – Apr 30, 2016

KELOWNA — Thosuands of people attended the Vaisakhi celebrations in Kelowna on Saturday.

There was live music and signing, free food and activities like henna art.

“We wanted to try something new, we’ve never been before […] and we love learning about new cultures,” said Justine Hutchings who attended Vaisakhi celebrations with her family.

The 2016 Vaisakhi festival in Kelowna drew the largest crowd the event has ever seen, according to organizers.

The parade started and ended at the Sikh Temple in Rutland.

Thousands of people took part, either by walking right along with the participants, or sitting back and watching the procession.

Vaisakhi is a harvest celebration, the beginning of the new year for Sikhs and also the anniversary of the birth of the religion.

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Saturday’s festivities marked the sixth annual Vaisakhi festival in Kelowna and organizers say it has grown exponentially every year. They estimate the turnout this year was double what it was last year.

“I think we [had] close to 10,000 people… we started with maybe two or three thousand the first time we did it,” says Kelowna Sikh Temple president Paramjit Singh Patara.

MP for Kelowna-Lake Country Steven Fuhr presented the Kelowna Sikh Temple with a photo signed by each of Canada’s Sikh cabinet ministers.

“There are 17 MP’s, four of which are Sikh cabinet ministers and I believe there’s actually more Sikh representation in the Canadian government than there is in India,” says Fuhr.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says the event hits close to home.

“My great-grandparents were one of the first to settle in the valley from India and so to see how the community has grown and how its been embraced by other residents of Kelowna, to me, it’s heartwarming,” says Basran.

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