As many as 1,000 marchers, many dressed in the orange, green and white colors of India’s tricolor flag, will stream down Hillside Avenue in Queens on Saturday, Aug. 11, in the third annual India Day Parade.
Five floats, scores of local performing groups and even a trio of Bollywood stars are expected to join the parade stepping off at 2 p.m. just across the city line in Floral Park, Queens. The parade, held annually on the weekend before India Independence Day’s official commemoration on Aug. 15, ends at Padavan-Preller Complex Field in Bellerose, Queens.
The parade “is bringing everyone together on one day to celebrate India’s Independence,” says Hemant Shah of Floral Park, executive vice president of parade sponsor the Floral Park-Bellerose Indian Merchants Association, which represents 100 Hillside Avenue businesses.
“It is a celebration of freedom and a moment of pride,” says Bina Sabapathy of Plainview, a member of the India Association of Long Island. “We are celebrating the day in 1947 when we won our freedom after 200 years of British rule,” Sabapathy explains.
Sabapathy, a social worker who emigrated from South India, said Indian-Americans from Hicksville, Valley Stream and Deer Park are expected to be among the 1,500 spectators lining the parade route and attending the mela, or fair, afterward at Padavan-Preller Complex in Bellerose.
STARS OF INDIA
Shah says that 35 civic and cultural organizations will pass by in the approximately one-hour procession. Many of the women will be wearing white, orange and green saris, a traditional draped garment. Other marching groups range from New York City mounted police to a Bhangra band, playing upbeat pop tunes from India’s Punjab region. The music will run the gamut from patriotic songs in Hindi, India’s national language, to movie themes such as "Jai Ho," the evergreen hit from "Slumdog Millionaire."
A trio of buzz-worthy Indian celebrities are also expected to join the throngs of marchers. Ishita Dutta and Vatsal Sheth, Indian film and soap opera stars whose November marriage generated tabloid headlines in their native land, and Michelle Ann Daniel, an actress and South India celebrity, will march in the parade. They’ll appear on stage at the fair, and mingle with the crowd for autographs and photos, Shah says.
Cultural programs will kick off at 3:30 in the park with the singing of the U.S. and Indian national anthems. Performers include children and adults from local dance schools, and vocalists singing Indian songs such as "Kuttanadan Punjayile," a bouncy number also known as the “Kerala Boat Song.”
SWEETS AND STREET FOOD
Two vendors will be serving savory Indian food items from booths in the park: Real Usha of Floral Park and Mother's Kitchen catering in New Hyde Park. The latter will be serving panipuri, a deep fried wheat bowl with black pea and potato filling, and pav bhaji, a spicy mixed cooked vegetable dish with bread on the side. “All the dishes I am preparing are Indian street food,” says business owner Priyank Shah.
More than 15 vendors will be setting up shop in the park, selling saris, sweets and other items, many of which are imports from the subcontinent.
India Day Parade
WHEN | WHERE 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug.11, on Hillside Avenue, Queens, from 263rd Street to 236th Street; traditional Indian mela (fair) runs 1-8 p.m. at the Padavan-Preller Complex Field 1, 236-02 Hillside Ave., Bellerose