Last year more than 2,000 people descended on Woodward Park’s lower basin for the Punjabi American Association of Manteca’s annual Vaisakhi celebration.
And on Saturday, May 5, almost twice as many people are expected to show up for a day of fun, food, sport and culture as the organization once again welcomes the community to partake in the more than 300-year-old festival that honors the harvest in Northern India and carries religious significance for the more than 24 million Sikhs in the world today.
“It’s an opportunity to share our culture with the community, and for people to come out and have fun,” said PAAM Spokesman Mandeep Bhullar. “It’s a good platform for the kids who like to come out and it’s great for building a bridge between different cultures – it’s an important festival to Sikhs and to Punjabis, and it’s great to be able to share that.”
The events will begin at 9 a.m. in the park’s lower basin when children will be broken up into teams and races will be held – honoring the festival’s sporting tradition before expanding to games that all ages can participate in. Activities will continue until 7 p.m.
According to Bhullar, one of the biggest draws is the tug-of-war competition – broken up by age brackets and sexes – where groups of 12 people try to pull their opponents into the middle without getting pulled forward themselves.
A number of food vendors and more than two dozen regular vendors will be on hand offering everything from traditional Punjabi items to toys and clothes.
For Punjabi’s Vaisakhi marks the beginning of the annual solar new year while for Sikhs it marks Khalsa community – also referred to as the birth of their religion.
The ancient festival has long served as a gathering place where festive foods are prepared and shared and gurdwaras – Sikh temples – are decorated to mark the occasion.
This year Vaisakhi was formally held at most temples on Saturday, April 14, but the PAAM event aims at bringing the unique flavor of the cultural and religious ceremony to a larger community in order to help show residents and neighbors what the event, and the people who celebrate it, are all about.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s a chance for families to come together,” Bhullar said. “There are traditional and cultural things that we do every year – we’ve had this celebration in Manteca for the last eight years, and the last four at Woodward Park – and every year we see more and more people come out to participate.
“We encourage everybody who can to come and participate – we welcome everybody.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.