The largest Vaisakhi parade outside of India set a new attendance record Saturday, with over half a million people crowding the streets of Surrey.
The annual event, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary, saw visitors from across Canada, the U.S. and around the world come together to celebrate the Sikh community and the spring harvest.
Dozens of food vendors served traditional Indian dishes for free up and down the parade route, which saw dozens of floats, musicians and dancers dressed in bright, vibrant colours.
Organizer Moninder Singh Bual said the turnout is proof of the event’s purpose of bringing people together.
“It’s one of the most important days for us in the (Sikh) community,” he said. “We want to reach people on the fringes of society and make them feel involved and welcome, and that’s why you see so much free food being offered here today.”
Vaisakhi originated in the Punjab region of India more than 300 years ago and has since become a holy day to mark the birth of the Khalsa fraternity, which upholds humanity and the environment.
The importance of the festival hit new heights this year, with April being designated Sikh Heritage Month in B.C.
Surrey-Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal attended the parade and said recognizing the contributions Sikhs have made to the fabric of Canadian history can’t be overlooked.
“We’ve been here for 120 years,” he said. “They fought in the First World War, they fought in the Second World War, they’ve built industries, and look where we are today.”
Surrey’s Vaisakhi parade has seen tremendous growth over just the past few years, growing from 400,000 attendees two years ago.
—With files from Julia Foy