A colourful parade takes to the streets in northeast Calgary this weekend for the first time since 2019.
The Nagar Kirtan parade starts at the Dashmesh Culture Centre in Martindale on Saturday morning and ends at Prairie Winds Park.
The parade is part of the festival of Vaisakhi and sees devotees sing prayers, play music and chant hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib — the Sikh holy book — as the procession passes down the street.
“It’s very exciting, especially coming after two years. Everyone’s excited, and we’ve been getting ready for the last two months,” said Amanpreet Singh Gill, president of the Dashmesh Culture Centre.
“In 2019, there were 70,000, and this year we’re expecting 80,000 people,” said Gill.
This year, the Dashmesh Culture Centre is focusing on a greener parade with a host of measures to make the event more environmentally friendly.
One of those measures is sponsoring Calgary Transit for the day, making travel around the whole city free for all Calgarians regardless of their attendance at the parade.
“All CTrain and bus service is free from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. to help with emissions control. This is a gift from the Sikh community to all Calgarians,” said Gill.
Gill says the nearest LRT station for anyone who wants to take part in the parade is McKnight-Westwinds.
“There’ll be free food for everyone, and we make sure nobody leaves hungry,” said Gill.
Gill says organizing the event is a long process that starts four months out and involves working with the City of Calgary, Calgary police, Calgary Fire Department and AHS, with a small army of 500 volunteers making the event possible.
“We would like to be part of the community in a way that spreads lots of positive energy,” said volunteer Buta Singh Rehill.
“Particularly at this time where everyone’s been stressed out with COVID, I think this is a good opportunity to spread the word of our goodness and be good to each other,” said Rehill.
Rehill says the parade will be as good as all of the parades that have taken place in previous years.
“Nagar Kirtan promotes togetherness. We are all one, and this is an opportunity for everyone to come together,” said Gill.