Feast of food, music and dance at Whangarei's Diwali festival of lights

By Imran Ali

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Traditional Indian dancers perform at Whangarei's Diwali festival. Photo / Imran Ali
Traditional Indian dancers perform at Whangarei's Diwali festival. Photo / Imran Ali

The largest crowd ever at the Indian festival of Diwali in Northland gave a feast of food and entertainment the thumbs up.

Even after all 500 tickets to the popular yearly event were snapped up by Thursday for Saturday's Diwali Festival at Forum North, organisers fielded calls from people without tickets keen to join the celebrations.

People with tickets lined the corridors as far back as the Whangarei District Council's customer services entrance from 5.30pm on Saturday.

The event was organised by the Northland Indian Association which has about 800 members. The crowd was ushered towards the food table as soon as they arrived before cultural programmes such as music and dances began about 7.30pm.

A variety of vegetarian food prepared by Food for Life in Whangarei and traditional Indian sweets were served.

But the entertainment side of the programme was not dominated by Indian performers.

Students from Whangarei Intermediate School performed a Bollywood dance while those from Pompallier Catholic College wowed the crowd with a robotic dance.

An Indian dance teacher at Community Education Whangarei, Sakshi Vij Sekhon, led her non-Indian students on stage throughout the programme for Bollywood dance performances.

Kiwis joined students and Northlanders who hail from the Indian state of Punjab on the dance floor when Auckland musical group Nachda Punjab swung into action.

Association board chairman Ralph Correa said his members put on an almost international show.

He said all 500 tickets were sold out by Thursday evening and his members had to turn away about 60 people.

People who attended Diwali kept asking about the next public event the association planned to organise, he said.

"We wanted to showcase [to] Northland the best of our local talent and the crowd appreciated the cultural diversity and the food. Integration with the wider society is the goal of our association," he said.

Mr Correa acknowledged the effort put into organising the event by his members and supporters, including NorthTec, over the past five to six weeks.

He said about 35 per cent of dancers who performed on Saturday were non-Indians. The actual day of Diwali falls this Sunday.

- Northern Advocate

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