THUNDER BAY - For some, celebrating a cultural tradition can be a small, family affair. So when an opportunity comes along to share that tradition with an entire city, it is like bringing everyone into one big family.
For 11-year-old Chetna and her mother, Angali Vector, the Festival of India is a time for them to celebrate their own culture, and share it with the community.
“It’s great to be here because otherwise we don’t have that any activities,” Angali said. “We have the Multicultural Centre where we go every Sunday. Other than that, these kinds of festivals are great to be here.”
“Usually, I see all the Canadian kind of stuff,” Chetna added. “So it’s cool to see every year the India stuff.”
Chetna and Angali were only two of thousands of people who came out to the Festival of India on Saturday at Marina Park. The annual festival, now in its eighth year, included music, dancing, yoga, a parade, henna tattoos, face painting, cricket, and a whole lot of food with an Indian bazaar and a free vegetarian feast.
For festival organizer, Prashant Jani, the annual event is not just about celebrating Indian culture, it’s about celebrating life.
“Life is very colourful,” he said. “We have to enjoy life with full music and dances.”
At the heart of the festival is the popular Chariot Parade, an 18-foot high chariot that was pulled through the park by participants and led by dancers.
“The chariot of the parade represents universal love and brotherhood,” Jani said. “When we are pulling the chariot, it represents that we are pulling the love and brotherhood towards us. The message is: we are one. We are helping here and loving each other.”
And while the Chariot Parade was a spectacular sight that had people pulling and dancing along, the food had hundreds lining up waiting to get a taste of traditional Indian cuisine.
“I do enjoy Indian food, so I just wanted to check it out,” said 17-year-old Megayn Turcotte, who was at her first Festival of India on Saturday.
“I really like it,” she continued. “I think it’s a great experience to discover different cultures in Thunder Bay. There’s a great diversity here.”
With all the cultural performances and cuisine, people were taken on a journey around the world, while for others, it was like a trip back home, a trip they were happy to share with such a big family.
“We feel like part of India,” Angali said. “We are from India. It’s personal attachment to it. And we enjoy meeting family and friends and eating Indian food.”