British Columbia

Surrey's Vaisakhi parade hits new participation record

Day-long celebrations on Saturday, April 23 in Surrey, B.C. mark birth of Sikh faith and start of harvest in Punjab.

More than 350,000 attend event in its 18th year

The Sikh celebrations around Vaisakhi mark the annual harvest festival and commemorates the establishment of the Khalsa. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

Surrey streets were saw more than 350,000 people for the 18th annual Vaisakhi parade on Saturday, April 23 — one of the largest celebrations outside of India, said event organizers who added that this year's attendance is a new record for the event.

In 2015, 300,000 people attended.

Surrey's 128 Street was flooded with colourful traditional outfits as far as the eye could see for the annual Vaisakhi parade. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

Vaisakhi marks the birth of the Sikh faith, the creation of the Khalsa and pays tribute to the start of Punjabi harvest. It's one of the most significant dates in the year for Sikhs.

"It feels wonderful. It feels like we're celebrating the way we do back home," said participant Parmbir Kahlon, who is of Indian descent.

"It's important to celebrate so that everyone recognizes their origin, where they came from, what their culture, what their religion is all about."

Parade spectator Parmbir Khalon said the Vaisakhi parade reminded him of celebrations at home in India. (CBC)

Celebrations started at 9 a.m. PT at the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar located on 85th Avenue. The parade route circled back to the temple at around 5 p.m. PT.

At least 20 community groups marched in the parade ranging from the Sikh Motorcycle Club to Har Jus Kirtan, a 100-member team who performed traditional Sikh hymns.

Students from several Khalsa schools in B.C. sang traditional songs and played music throughout the parade. Many also practiced gatka, a martial art that includes spinning colourful chakars.

Tents lined the streets with families and businesses handing out free food in the Sikh spirit of service and generosity. Reflecting the welcoming nature of the event, everything from pizza to curries were offered.

"This is not just a Sikh event," said parade organizer Moninder Singh. "The Sikh community may host the event, but it's for everyone."

Many in the Sikh community offer free food to anyone attending the Vaisakhi parade as part of the commitment to selflessness and service. (Lien Yeung/CBC)
A family from Delta, B.C. scoops out ice cream and pumps ketchup for the free French fries they were handing out to Vaisakhi parade attendees. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

Because of the numbers of pedestrians, traffic in the area was halted by RCMP starting at 7:30 a.m. PT., according to the parade's website

Vehicle access to 128th Street and the parade route was limited. Delays were also experienced at 72nd Avenue to 88th Avenue, and Scott Road to King George Highway.

Corrections

  • A prior version of the story contained an image mistakenly captioned as a large crowd waiting to welcome the Indian prime minister to Vaisakhi celebrations. In fact, the crowd was outside of a Hindu temple on a different day and had no connection to Vaisakhi
    Apr 23, 2016 11:31 AM PT

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