British Columbia

Surrey Vaisakhi parade draws crowd of 500,000 people

Every year at the Vaisakhi festival, thousands of people march through Surrey in celebration, and each year the Kang family prepares and distributes hundreds of potato patties.

Event organizers say Lower Mainland event largest in the world

Each year, hundreds of aloo tikkis are distributed during the Vaisakhi festival. The savoury dish is made of potatoes and lentils. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Almost half a million B.C. residents celebrated Vaisakhi on Saturday, marching through the streets of Surrey.

According to a statement from event organizers, this year's event was the largest Vaisakhi parade in the world with over 500,000 guests and 20 floats in the annual parade.

"It marks the harvest festival," said Harjot Kang, a festival participant. The festival originated in South Asia's Punjab region.

Millions of people celebrate around the world, and Surrey sees thousands of revellers each year. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Kang and her family spent hours leading up to the parade preparing mounds of aloo tikkis, potato patties which the family distributed during the event.

Sharing food is a tenet in Sikhism, and Kang's family has handed out food during the event for the last 14 years. They have dished out the aloo tikkis, which are full of lentils and spices, for the last 10 years.

The patties are served with two different sauces, or chutneys, and topped with diced radishes.

Thousands of aloo tikkis are fried on a hot flat top during the parade. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"There's a religious aspect," said Kang. "[Vaisakhi] is when the tenth Sikh guru ... essentially established the Sikh conduct. So we celebrate this day with the community."

Vaisakhi is typically celebrated in April and commemorates, among other things, the creation of the Khalsa — a group integral to the Sikh belief system.

Elaborate demonstrations were on display as thousands of people marched through Surrey, B.C., for Vaisakhi. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"I think [giving food] signifies family and togetherness for us," said Kang. "That's why we've done it every year."

Members of the large family pitch in to make the hundreds of aloo tikkis. They mobilize into a production line each year, and together churn out the savoury patties.

Sharing food is a central belief in Sikhism. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

More than 700 pounds of potatoes are boiled, peeled and mashed. Several wheels of cheese are cut and mixed with the lentils for filling. Radishes are diced and prepared for the topping. 

While aloo tikkis are a popular street food in India, Kang's family has perfected its own personal recipe.

"One of our uncles got the recipe from the chefs that make it there," said Kang. "And we've been making improvements ever since."

With files from Ben Nelms and Cory Correia

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