Vaisakhi Parade reflects Sikh growth in Central Okanagan

In a colourful parade augmented by exotic tastes and music, Kelowna’s maturing cultural profile will be on display this weekend.

In a colourful parade augmented by exotic tastes and music, Kelowna’s maturing cultural profile will be on display this weekend.

The Okanagan Sikh community is putting on its first Vaisakhi parade Saturday, mirroring activities that have traditionally rolled out in larger urban hubs.

“The Sikh population has been growing,” said Parmjit Patara, saying there’s 4,000 to 5,000 Sikh families who now call the valley home.

“And since we built the new temple, there’s been a demand—people were asking if we are going to have a Vaisakhi  parade. So, we decided we’d do this.”

Vaisakhi is one of the most significant holidays in the Sikh calendar, remarkable in a religious context, as it’s when the Sikhs gained a distinct identity, said Patara.

It also marks the harvest of winter crops in the Punjab region and the start of a new year.

It’s a time of celebration as farmers enjoy the fruits of hard work and thank God for the bountiful harvest and pray for prosperity in the future.

And many celebrations specific to the holiday will be on display during the Saturday event.

“There will be a lot of food along the parade, people will have stalls set up in their driveway, where they’ll be giving away lots of things—mostly food,” he said.

Another major attraction of Vaisakhi celebrations in villages is the performance of energetic Bhangra and Gidda dance by men and women respectively.

This very popular traditional folk dance is performed in groups on the fast beat of dhol (drum).

Dancers perform everyday farming scenes of sowing, harvesting and gathering of crops through movements of the body to the accompaniment of a ballad.

“This is really exciting for the younger people in our community,” he said.

“Usually they have to travel to other places to take part in the festival.”

Patara went on to say that it’s not just the Sikh community that’s being welcomed into the fold, as already more than 20 floats from other parts of the community have been entered into the parade.

“Everybody is welcome—everybody in Kelowna,” he said.

The celebration will begin at the Rutland Road Sikh temple at 11 a.m, and the parade will roll out from there.

The city will also get in on the action, and is enforcing rolling road closures beginning at 11:45 a.m. along Sumac Road E., Lacombe Road, Craig Road, Maygard Road and Friesen Road to accommodate the parade.

Between 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., McCurdy Road will be closed between Rutland and Craig Roads including a westbound lane closure on Hartman Road between Rutland and Craig Roads.

Alternate access to Rutland Recreation Park is available via Bach Road at Dodd Road. Traffic control personnel will be visible along the route and motorists may experience minor disruptions.

For more information go to www.kelownasikhtemple.com/vaisakhi.