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Sikh fest of food, music, fun draws thousands to Glen Cove

Thousands of Sikh community members attended the 12th

Thousands of Sikh community members attended the 12th annual Vaisakhi Mela, a festival in Glen Cove featuring food, games and performances in honor of the Sikh religion, on Sunday, June 26, 2016. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Thousands of Sikhs on Long Island flocked Sunday to the Vaisakhi Mela, an annual festival of food, music and revelry in Glen Cove marking the inception of the centuries-old religion.

Drums boomed and colorful fabrics billowed in the breeze, welcoming men, women and children arriving by bus from the Island and beyond. Many attendees at the 12th annual event embraced friends and family before disappearing among throngs of people.

Jagjit Singh Bedi, 57, an event organizer from Queens, said he expected more people to attend this year’s celebration than the last, which drew 7,000.

“This is not only for the Sikh community,” Singh Bedi said. “All communities are invited. No religion, no matter. All are welcome.”

The mela, Sanskrit for “gathering” or “fair,” featured all the trappings of a typical carnival. Brightly clad musicians played drums and chanted to an enthusiastically responsive audience. Raffle booths dared fairgoers to try their luck at winning extravagant prizes: A trip to India, a car, a diamond ring.

And then, of course, there was the food.

Piles of rice, stews made of chickpeas and carrots, and tantalizing sauces steamed under massive white tents. Crowds 10-deep surrounded serving tables, eager to try dishes their community members had prepared.

Kamaljeet Kaur, 28, of Hicksville, said the holiday is an opportunity to connect and celebrate the Punjabi harvest.

‘‘I just want to enjoy every single part of the day,’’ Kaur said.

‘‘Every person is here from my community and other communities as well. There are no restrictions. You just come, enjoy and have food.’’

And attendees could eat as much as they wanted, for as long as they wanted — all free. Local restaurants and community members donated the food, which included traditional American fare as well as Indian dishes.

“The food is fantastic,” said Corina Mintz, of Port Washington, who attended the festival last year. “It’s a fabulous event. It’s really well organized.”

Long Island is home to a vibrant Sikh community and many temples for celebrating the faith. Glen Cove’s Gurdwara Sahib temple hosted this event, which falls a few months after the Vaisakhi holiday, usually celebrated in April.

The organizing team schedules the annual mela in June to ensure fair weather and that younger community members are out of school, Singh Bedi said.

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