Thousands of people have gathered in South Vancouver on Saturday for the annual Vaisakhi parade — including politicians who are gearing up for the official start of the provincial election campaign.

Liberal Leader Christy Clark addressed the crowd, saying she believes it's time to mark the neighbourhood around 49th and Main streets with an "India Gate."

"This community here at the Punjabi market has talked for years about a gate," she said. "I think it’s time there was an India Gate to welcome people to the Punjabi market."

NDP Leader Adrian Dix said the Vaisakhi parade is less of a political event and more of a community one.

"Part of the challenge that the current government has had is the confusion of its role as government and its role as political party. They've clearly had that problem overtime," he said.

"But in my case I think it's important to participate in events in the community as I do all year and it's a good opportunity to meet people not in a formal setting where we're talking about politics formally, but just meet them as they're celebrating today or going about their lives."

Vaisakhi is a festival celebrated across the India subcontinent. For Hindus, it is a celebration of the start of the new year. For Sikhs, the festival commemorates the birth of their religion.

Vaisakhi is also observed as a day of thanks by farmers who welcome the start of the harvest season.

The parade route has many streets in Vancouver's south end closed until around 5 p.m. PT.

Next week, another Vaisakhi parade will be held in Surrey.

with files from CBC's Dan Burritt