India Day Festival draws Bellevue community to Crossroads

India Day Festival featured dance performances all day long at Market Stage in Crossroads, as well as booths from over 30 different vendors.  - Kirsten Smith/Bellevue Reporter
India Day Festival featured dance performances all day long at Market Stage in Crossroads, as well as booths from over 30 different vendors.
— image credit: Kirsten Smith/Bellevue Reporter

On Saturday, Aug. 21, members of the Bellevue community gathered at Crossroads Shopping Center to celebrate India’s 64th Independence Day.

India Day Festival began with a parade by sponsored by the event’s host, the Indian Association of Western Washington. Children, grandparents and everyone in between walked the perimeter of the shopping center with banners and colorful costumes. A children’s choir then kicked off the day by asking everyone to stand first for the Indian national anthem and then the American one.

“It was the first annual Indian Independence day that reached out to the mainstream, and the collaboration between IAWW and the City of Bellevue and Crossroads was certainly a highlight of the event,” said Ketan Shah, president of the IAWW.

The event was marked primarily by dance and musical performances from a variety of regions of India that continued throughout the day on the Market Stage in Crossroads. The festival featured booths from over 30 vendors, with products that included jewelry, clothing, and artwork from India. It also included some education booths with information about Indian religion and history.

During the festival one of the featured speakers, Bellevue Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee, pointed out that at 15 percent, Bellevue has the largest concentration of the Indian population in Washington State.

“Some of this community is first generation, others second and third generation,” Lee said. “Many are leaders in business, community giving, arts, education, and many other ways that give life to Bellevue and improve the quality of living for everyone.”

The turnout for the festival was a surprise to both Crossroads and the IAWW. According to Nalini Niranjan, IAWW event coordinator for the festival, the IAWW estimates that over 1500 people visited the festival throughout the day.

“One thing I know is that for a lot of the people who were there, there was no space, I would have like to see people move around more,” said Niranjan. She also said that next year the IAWW hopes to find a bigger venue for the festival, possibly holding it in the parking lot of the shopping center or a nearby park.

One goal of Crossroads and the City of Bellevue, as well as the IAWW, was to market the celebration to the mainstream American community as well as the Indian community in Bellevue.

“I think we absolutely did go into the mainstream, that was the best part of it,” said Niranjan. “The work we are doing got noticed and we were able to involve the public.”

However, Charlsey Webster, marketing director at Crossroads, felt that there was room for improvement in that area.

“I think without a doubt it was largely the Indian community turned out, I think we caught on that a little bit,” she said. “Next year we will want to find more ways to bring the mainstream community out.”

Both the IAWW and Crossroads agreed that this year’s festival made way for Bellevue to continue hosting the celebration in future years.

“It was exciting to see the community turn out and prove that there is definitely potential for growth and new programs next year,” said Webster.

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