A Punjab celebration with performances from local and travelling musicians, singers and dancers drew hundreds of Punjabi families in their traditional folk costumes Sunday to The Forks.
The event, called the Punjab Day Mela, served as the first public debut for an annual celebration that previously was held in schools or community centers and catered mainly to immigrants and their families of East Indian heritage.
"The main raison for it is to put a spotlight on our culture," said event organizer Ricky Brar. "Even the pizza has a kick to it," he laughed. "The main message is that it is a large community and we are all united and we’re showing that by coming out today," Brar said. The public debut also gives Winnipeggers with no connection to the culture a chance to see it being celebrated, he added.
Brar said he was delighted to see entire families come out, dressed in their traditional clothes and settling in for a day of celebration at The Forks with grandparents, mothers and children.
"Nothing like this as ever happened in our community before," Brar said.
The Punjabi/Hindi community is estimated to number 40,000 people in Winnipeg.
Brar and the drivers with his business, the Hollywood Limousine Service, spent months learning the steps of a Bhangra dance to perform Sunday. Bhangra is a traditional set of folk dances that originated in the Indian subcontinent to celebrate the harvest.
Many other acts were performed by professional dance troupes that travel Canada’s highways every summer to similar events, which is one reason the event is separate from Folklorama, the city’s summer festival for multiculturalism.
Dozens of performances were showcased at the Scotia Main Stage at The Forks Sunday. The event started with traditional prayers at 10 a.m. and was due to wrap up after 8:30 p.m.
In addition to Punjabi/Hindi music, dances and songs, there were performances scheduled by Caribbean, First Nation and Filipino dance groups.