Penticton high school student Ikjot Kahlon (at left) is hosting a Punjabi Mela on Sunday in Gyro Park in memory of her grandmother, Baljinder Thin (at right), who died from cancer. All funds raised will go to the B.C. Cancer Foundation. Submitted photo

First Penticton Punjabi Mela festival in Gyro Park

Punjabi Mela taking place this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Gyro Park

A 17-year-old Penticton high school student is honouring her grandmother and raising money for cancer research all while putting on the first Punjabi festival in the city.

Ikjot Kahlon decided last spring she wanted to do something in memory of her grandmother Baljinder Thind.

After fighting for five years, Thind died of ovarian cancer in August 2016 at the age of 65.

“After that happened, and everything (Thind’s death) put our family through, I really wanted to do something. It was just before exams, so it was May or June when I thought about this idea and started doing little things to put it together,” she said. “I want the money raised to go to research. I want it to help find a cure for cancer.”

After deciding to throw a mela in tribute of her grandmother, Kahlon talked to others in the South Okanagan Punjabi Community and a committee was struck including friends Rav Matharoo and Ajit Brar.

Kahlon said there’s been tremendous support from the entire South Okanagan community.

The group worked diligently throughout the summer to plan the first annual Punjabi Mela taking place this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Gyro Park.

The goal is to raise $5,000 for cancer research.

“Everyone has been so helpful. We’ve gotten a lot of support,” she said.

The day will include a variety of Punjabi cuisine available by donation, a turban booth and jewellery for sale. And, of course, a Punjabi festival must include dancing. Dancers performing the bhangra and gidha are coming from as far away as Vancouver to participate in the festival.

“My dad is going to be selling food, people are supplying so many things and not taking any money for it. There’s going to be jewellery for sale by donation, a photo booth and a donation table. All that money is going to go to the B.C. Cancer Foundation,” she said.

Kahlon thought her grandmother would be proud of the event.

“It was really tough on my mom. They were extremely close. My grandma lived just down the street from us. I was at her house every single day. She would have liked this,” she said.

Kahlon encouraged anyone wanting to learn more about the Punjabi culture to come to the festival to sample the delicious food and take in some of the culture.

“It’s going to be a fun day and we’re hoping lots of people come out and help us raise money for cancer research.”