Hicksville's streets were a blaze of orange, green and white -- the colors of the Indian flag -- as hundreds gathered to commemorate the 68th anniversary of India's independence Sunday.
South Broadway was filled with sounds of traditional drumming and shouts of "Long live India!" as people of all ages walked the 2-mile stretch to the Asamai Hindu Temple on East Barclay Street.
The procession included elected officials, such as Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, Indian community groups and performers. Bollywood actress Neetu Chandra was grand marshal.
This year's parade, the fourth in Hicksville, had a theme of "Women Empowerment & the Next Generation." The festival celebrated India's break from British rule on Aug. 15, 1947. One of the guests of honor, Nina Davuluri, spoke about her experience as the first Indian-American Miss America in 2014 and thanked the first and second generations of the community for their hard work.
The parade's founder, Bobby K. Kalotee, and event co-chairs Beena Kothari and Indu Jaiswal presided over the program and introduced a roster of elected officials. Along with Venditto, the list included Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and others.
Jaiswal said the parade was an opportunity to bring the community together and showcase India's vibrant culture. The organizers chose Hicksville because it's a community "hub," Jaiswal said.
The hamlet has its own Little India, with businesses clustered along Route 107, Old Country Road and near the train station. According to the most recent census, the Indian population in Nassau County nearly doubled from 20,000 to 2010 to about 40,000.
Makarand Utpat, 42, traveled from New Jersey to participate in the parade with Jallosh, a nonprofit that promotes Indian heritage. He said observing India's Independence Day sets an example for the next generation.
Sangeeta Yadav, a Flushing resident, said she wanted her children to understand the importance of the holiday.
"After so many years of struggle, we should respect the freedom and how we got to this day," said Yadav, 35, who also choreographed a dance to perform at the event with her two daughters.
Outside the temple, the Hicksville LIRR station's parking lot was filled with more than 30 vendors selling Indian food and wares.
"It's like the July 4th of India," said Hicksville resident Vijay Kumar, 64, who came with his two grandchildren. "It's a day that everyone comes together."