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PAAM hosting Vaisakhi Festival Saturday
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Volunteers work a food line at a previous Vaisakhi Festival held in Manteca. - photo by Photo Contributed

In Northern India it’s a festival to celebrate nature’s bountiful harvest.
But on Saturday, May 6, the Vaisakhi Festival – hosted by the Punjabi American Association of Manteca – being held at Woodward Park will for the seventh straight year bring a dose in Sikh customs and culture for the community at large and anybody who wants to come out and participate.
The free event, which will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., will feature traditional dances, games, food and cultural practices for both those with Punjabi roots and those interested with learning more about an ethnic subset that is growing in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
“American is a melting pot and every community is important and unique,” said Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal – who will be in attendance. “When we have festivals like this it brings those different communities together.
“Diversity is truly the spice of life, and I’m looking forward to celebrating that with people on Saturday.”
Organizers estimate between 1,500 and 2,000 people from throughout the area will attend the event. Last year, he said, people came from as far away as Fresno and Bakersfield to participate. Dhaliwal – who is also active in the organization – said that there will be guests from Yuba City, Sacramento, Elk Grove and points across the Bay Area when people gather on Saturday.
The first half of the festival, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., will focus on the sports that will be offered while the second half, from 2 to 7 p.m., will be the cultural practices – dances featuring children that have been practicing and training for months specifically for this one event.
The festival, which is free to the public, is open to the community at large regardless of faith or heritage, and other community church organizations have routinely participated in the past to bridge the gap between the two entities – namely the now-retired Pastor Mike Dillman at the Place of Refuge Church in Manteca.
The local Punjabi community turned out in mass for the annual Sikh Parade to the gurdwara – or temple – in Downtown Stockton to coincide with Vaisakhi, but that event, according to Dhaliwal, was geared more towards the religious aspect of the holiday whereas the event on Saturday will promote the cultural aspects.
Traditional folk dances, that were held to celebrate the bountiful harvest in Northern India, will be one of the showcase events as will traditional games, music and sports that cater to both native Punjabis who immigrated to the United States and the children who look at events like the one being held on Saturday as a way to remain in touch with old-world customs.
“It’s definitely something that’s available for everybody and there’s a little bit of something there for everybody – there’s culture and food and some vibrant performances,” PAAM spokesman Mandeep Bhuller said before last year’s event. “It’s important to have events like this that keep things alive and well and although some of these children have never seen or participated in this, they’ll learn and be able to carry the tradition forward.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.