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Surrey’s massive Vaisakhi Parade returns to Newton streets Saturday, April 20

Hundreds of booths line route as businesses and families hand out food and treats to parade-goers
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Surrey Vaisakhi parade crowd in Newton in April 2018. (File photo: Crystal Scuor)

Streets of Newton will be very busy Saturday, April 20 during Surrey’s annual Vaisakhi Parade, among the world’s largest such gatherings.

The annual Khalsa Day event draws hundreds of thousands of people to the neighbourhood starting at Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar Temple, 12885 85 Ave.

In 2023 the parade returned after a three-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting at around 9:30 a.m., the float-filled parade travels from the Sikh temple along 124 Street to 75 Avenue, along 76 Avenue and then on 128 Street before returning to the temple. Road closures are planned from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 20.

Hundreds of booths line the route as businesses and families hand out food and treats to parade-goers. Parade entry is open to any community groups, such as marching bands, school groups, cultural-groups, community organizations, performers, organizations and many others.

Participants are requested to cover their heads, and not to smoke or drink at the event.

Event details are posted on surreyvaisakhiparade.com, including route maps, the meaning of Vaisakhi and more.

Shooting Stars will set up at the temple from April 12 to 21, with ride-access wristbands priced at $30 per day, per person. Opening-day hours April 12 are from 3 to 9 p.m. On parade day (April 20), the carnival will be active from noon to 10 p.m., then from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 21. More details are posted on shootingstar.ca.

• RELATED, from 2019: Vaisakhi voices in Surrey: What does Vaisakhi mean to you?

Last year, Jasnbet Bal, a student at the University of British Columbia, came to the Surrey parade with her mother from Calgary. Bal said they had heard about Surrey’s parade and wanted to experience it for themselves. Bal added that Calgary has a Vaisakhi parade as well, but much smaller.

“It’s, like, a big deal within our community, culturally and religiously, so it’s good that we actually get to come out,” Bal said.

WHAT IS VAISAKHI?

“For many thousands of years, Vaisakhi has been the time when farmers have put their sickles to harvest and celebrated the coming of a new year,” explains a post on the Surrey parade website.

“Since 1699, the Sikhs have had a further reason to celebrate at this time of the year. Now Vaisakhi is celebrated with even more energy, pomp and fanfare. It has become a holy day to mark the birth of the Khalsa fraternity. And so 300+ years on, this tradition continues with much gaiety, vigour and enthusiasm. Sikhs worldwide will spend much time remembering this most important day in their religious calendar – the day the Khalsa was created.

“If we take ourselves back to 1699 and the birth place of the Khalsa perhaps the real significance of Vaisakhi for the Sikh people can be comprehended. During the period around 1650, the country around Punjab was in turmoil; the rulers were corrupt; there was no rule of law; the rights of the common people were non-existent; justice did not prevail. The strong imposed their will and their way without question; the weak suffered constantly and quietly; there was misery everywhere.

“It was under these circumstances that Guru Gobind Singh rose to the occasion and chose to create the Khalsa. The Guru was looking for people within the community who would take on the challenge and rise above the weakness; to be strong and fearless; to be prepared to face these challenges without reservation and to uphold justice; to be fair and even handed at all times; to be prepared to die for the truth.

“The Surrey Vaisakhi Parade has been held in the streets of the community for the past 20 years. Attendees of all races and cultures are welcome at this celebratory and rich cultural event, which features a large number of floats, community performers and live music. Surrey’s Vaisakhi Parade also features a unique element which pays tribute to the harvest celebration roots of the parade – attendees are given free food and drink from hundreds of local residents and businesses.”

– with files from Anna Burns



Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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