VALHALLA, N.Y. – Colorful clothing, elaborate dances and the scent of curried food filled the Kensico Dam Plaza on Sunday as people gathered for the 13th Heritage of India Festival.
Vendors, performers and about 8,000 visitors braved the heat to celebrate Indian culture at the event held by the Indian American Cultural Association of Westchester.
“It’s a forum for us to share our culture,” said Asha Patel, a member of the IACAW executive commission.
The theme of this year’s celebration was the peacock, the national bird of India. Peacock feathers, images and color palettes adorned the several dozen vendor tents, as well as the main stage, which hosted performances. Jay Bar, IAWAC treasurer, said people are drawn to the event because of the ethnic diversity and lively singing and dancing. Bar said the festival promotes awareness and appreciation of Indian culture and businesses in the Westchester area.
The festival was held from 1 to 7 p.m., during which a constant stream of traditional and modern dancers and singers, entertained visitors and dazzled in bright, gold-adorned outfits that caught the sunlight with every movement. Spectators got involved with the performances by dancing, singing and clapping along with the music.
“The weather is usually great,” said Clem Thompson, vice president of local product leadership for Neilson, which sponsored the event. “It’s a great way to get out and meet people and the food – I’m a big fan of lamb, naan, just everything, it’s all great.”
Children had plenty to keep them entertained with several children’s activity tables that featured arts and crafts. Henna tattoo stands were bustling all day with eager visitors waiting to have intricate patterns drawn on their bodies. Despite the popularity of the merchants, the food vendors were the busiest with long lines throughout the day.
Sandy Patel, from New York New York Cheesecake in New York City, was at the event selling cookies, brownies, Italian ice and the cheesecakes that have made the bakery famous since 1924. It was the business’ first year at the festival and Patel said she hopes their presence at the event will introduce their products to Westchester County.
“It’s a great way to get products out there and reach out to Westchester,” Patel said.
The event was free to the public, but proceeds raised from vendors and donations will be used for upcoming IAWAC events, Bar said. For more information about the IAWAC and to learn more about upcoming events, visit the group’s website.