One of Surrey’s biggest, and definitely most colourful events is back after three years! The Surrey Vaisakhi Parade is a celebration of Vaisakhi – a centuries-old holiday that’s celebrated by Sikhs around the world. The holiday marks the birth of Sikhism in 1699 and is considered a celebration of the spring harvest. Surrey is home to the largest Vaisakhi Parade in the world, which takes place this year on April 22, 2023. All are welcome at this joyful celebration of culture, which features a colourful and entertaining procession of over 2500 participants representing 20 community organizations. There is also live music and community performances, and all along the route hundreds of booths, sponsored by local families and businesses give free food and drink to onlookers. We reached out to local Raj Thandhi of Pink Chai Living for some tips on how to make the most of your Vaisakhi experience!
What to expect and how to prepare for Surrey’s most colourful event
Having lived in Surrey for most of my life, I’ve seen the annual Vaisakhi Parade (also known as Nagar Kirtan in Punjabi) grow into the most amazing community event it is today. With between 200,000-500,000 visitors each year, it’s considered by many to be one of the largest Vaisakhi Parades held outside India. And it happens right here in our city!
Visitors from all over the province and even the United States make their way to Surrey each year to take part in the religious ceremonies and the vibrant festivities related to the parade. If you are considering coming out to watch the procession, then I’ve got some tips that will make the visit a little easier and a lot more enjoyable for you.
Attendees of all cultures are welcome at the parade.
Although Vaisakhi has a religious significance for Sikhs, people of all cultures are welcome and encouraged to attend the parade. As a sign of respect, attendees are encouraged to cover their heads if they are walking with the floats and while eating food from the stalls set up along the parade route.
Know the parade route and parking spots.
The parade route begins at Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar (12885 85th Avenue) and travels along 124 Street, turns left onto 75 Avenue, continues on 76 Avenue, and onto 128 Street before returning to the temple. Most streets near this route will be blocked to traffic, and parking will be difficult to find. Your best option is to get a ride to drop you off near the parade route or to take public transit to the area instead.
As the parade moves along the route, the crowds move with it. If it’s your first time at the parade, I suggest finding a spot along 76 Avenue or 124 Street, as these areas are easier to navigate. Get there before the parade comes by and wait for the procession. This way you can get a view of all the floats as they go by.
Along the parade route, there will be a number of stages set up that feature live entertainment such as singing and dancing. The largest and most popular are along 128 Street. Stop and watch an act or two to get a feel for the festive flavour of Vaisakhi! This is the most crowded leg of the parade though, so keep kids close.
One of the biggest draws of the Vaisakhi parade is all the food. Many families and businesses set up free food stalls on the day of the parade. This is to celebrate the spirit of seva (service) and langar (the community kitchen) within the Sikh community. Feel free to sample the food and try new items, but be respectful. Take only what you need, and dispose of your plates and garbage in the marked containers along the route. Don’t be shy, Sikh families love sharing langar with community members.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
The Vaisakhi Parade can get quite crowded, and you will likely be doing a lot of walking as you take in the varied entertainment, check out the floats, and of course, sample the food! Wear comfortable shoes and carry a poncho. The Vaisakhi parade goes rain or shine, so you’ll want to be covered in case of showers.
I hope you’ll get out to the Vaisakhi Parade this year and experience all the colours, flavours, and joy of the occasion – it truly is a visual delight, and a unique #TrueSurrey experience!
Thanks to Raj Thandhi of Pink Chai Living for these wonderful Vaisakhi tips!
Photo Credit @azizdhamani