Orange, white and green balloons — the colors of India’s flag — lined part of the route thousands of residents, elected officials and celebrities marched down at Saturday’s fifth annual India Day Parade in Hicksville, celebrating India’s 69 years of independence from Britain.
With themes of education and environment, the parade’s festivities started in the parking lot of Apna Bazar farmers market on Bethpage Road, traveled down Bay Avenue and ended in a parking lot adjacent to two LIRR train tracks. At the end of the parade, attendees bought Indian cuisine and clothing from vendors, danced to DJ music and mingled in front of more than 40 white tents set up near a stage where celebrities, politicians and organizers spoke.
Attendees could also see a number of live performances, including traditional dances to Indian music.
Bollywood actor Bobby Deol, the parade’s grand marshal, said he was honored to be there, as attendees cheered his name and attempted to take pictures throughout the parade. Deol’s presence drew a number of fans, who were kept at a distance by several security guards.
Harmeet Kaur, 24, of Hicksville, said she came out in part to see Deol, one of her childhood heroes. Although she also longed for a picture, she said she ventured to Saturday’s activities to show support for Long Island’s Indian community.
Even though the parade celebrates India, Saturday’s activities welcomed all cultures, India Day Parade USA media chairman Ajay Batra said. Batra said he hoped attendees would leave the parade with a sense of community, peace and respect toward one other.
“Our main goal is to bring all cultures . . . under one roof,” Batra said.
Viviana Urgiles, 35, of Hicksville came out to support her daughter, who was on one of several floats. Although Urgiles is not Indian, she said she hoped to experience “cultural enrichment” by attending.
Anita Walters, 75, of Centereach, wandered over after grocery shopping at Apna Bazar, a sponsor of the parade. Although she didn’t know the parade was going on, Walters said she ultimately found the parade colorful and lively.
The parade crossed in front of several residential homes, and a number of Hicksville residents sat outside their houses to watch firefighters lead a parade filled with floats, cars and people on foot representing organizations such as the India Association of Long Island.
Tom and Barbara Kaiser sat outside their home watching the show. The Kaisers said they received notices on their door about the parade and since they were home in time, they sat to watch. You might as well go “when it goes straight by your house,” Tom Kaiser, 68, said.
Numerous attendees celebrated ties to both countries by singing the India and U.S. national anthems, wearing Indian garments and rallying behind cheers of being proud and caring Indian-Americans.
“Occasionally, there are these things that remind you where you come from,” the parade’s co-grand marshal, Bollywood actor Prashantt Guptha, said.
Guptha said he hoped the themes of education and environment could motivate the Long Island Indian community, who had grown up relatively well-off with respect to both issues, to help those in India.
According to the CIA, about 29 percent of India’s population 15 and older cannot read or write. Environmentally, the more than 1.25 billion people in the country face water and air pollution, soil erosion and limited natural resources due to the growing population.