Sikh festival coming to Livingston on Sunday

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMarch 24, 2014 

— A festive procession of bright colors, lively music and awe-inspiring displays of swordfighting will take over the streets of Livingston on Sunday.

The 16th annual Sikh festival will make its way into town, drawing crowds of more than 3,500 from all over California. The free event also gives attendees a taste of many traditional foods.

“There will be more food than you can ever eat,” said Livingston Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra, who helps organize the event. “And in order to not offend anyone, we serve vegetarian dishes.”

The parade will last about four hours, beginning at noon at the Gurdwara Sahib Temple at 2765 Peach Ave., then moving along Main Street to the Guru Nanak Temple on B Street.

Among highlights of the festival is the display of mock battles and swordsmanship, a tradition dating back more than 300 years.

“It’s always new because every year people dress differently,” Samra said of the festival and parade. “It’s the same event, but it’s always different because of the type of (parade) floats.”

According to the National Weather Service in Hanford, there’s a 30 percent chance of rain Sunday, but Samra said it won’t curtail the festivities. There was a small rainstorm last year, but it didn’t stop thousands of people from Fresno, Los Angeles and the Bay Area from turning out for one of the biggest Sikh events in the region.

Samra said the event isn’t only for Sikhs, but for everyone in Livingston and beyond.

“People outside the Sikh faith are going to experience a colorful event,” he said.

Local law enforcement supports the parade each year, with officers helping close streets and ensure a safe event.

Livingston Police Chief Ruben Chavez said six officers and 28 Explorers will be on hand this year.

“We need to have a few officers helping out each year. If we do have overtime, it will be funded by the Police Department,” he said. “It’s really nice to see the entire Sikh community come together in a festive atmosphere.”

Chavez said this is his third time attending the festival, which he called inspiring.

“If people aren’t familiar with the cultures of the Sikh faith, I think it’s a great opportunity for people to come out there and see a festive atmosphere and taste good food,” Chavez said. “This is a prime example of the community coming together to enjoy a traditional celebration.”

The Sikh festival is funded solely by donations, according to organizers.

Sikhism is a religion that was founded in India. It has 27 million followers, more than 5 million of them living outside India. Sikhs make up nearly 20 percent of Livingston’s population.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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