Friends of India to celebrate freedom, culture during parade

For 63 years, people from India have been celebrating their independence from British rule.

Now as its 64th year approaches, the Indian community in Las Vegas is preparing to celebrate by offering its first India Day Parade at 7 p.m. Saturday on Water Street in Henderson. The parade route runs from Ocean Avenue to Atlantic Avenue.

“For years, other states have thrown parades to celebrate,” said Sweeni Singh, a cultural secretary with Friends of India Las Vegas, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Indian culture. “We decided it’s time for Las Vegas to have one.”

Traveling through the four regions — North, South, East and West — the culture, traditions and dialects vary through India’s 26 states.

“Each region is really diverse and different,” Singh said.

Friends of India Las Vegas hopes to transport people on a journey through India by having floats represent each region.

So far, there are 35 entries for the hourlong parade.

“We are still taking entries,” Singh said. “We want people to experience the different flavors India has to offer. We invite everybody to come see how rich we are (in traditions and customs).”

Along with floats from different regions, Friends of India Las Vegas plans to have floats to represent Bollywood, the Indian film industry comparable to America’s Hollywood; an entry showcasing India’s presence in the World Cup soccer tournament; and a float featuring past Indian dignitaries and presidents.

Singh hopes to have some Indian dignitaries attend but hasn’t confirmed that .

Nicole Johnson, a spokesperson with the city of Henderson’s cultural arts and tourism department, said the city is excited to host the inaugural event .

“We’re a community that celebrates the diversity found among our residents.” Johnson said. “Our reputation as a cultural hub is quickly growing, and many civic clubs are choosing Henderson to host their events.”

Because of past response from other cultural events, she imagines that Henderson residents will be intrigued to see another diverse event.

“I think our residents will be excited for the new event,” Johnson said. “Over the years, we’ve hosted a number of culturally diverse special events, performances and exhibits, including the Ho’olaule’a Pacific Island Festival, Korean Cultural Day, St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, Hispanic International Day Parade and the Dolls of Japan. This is just another opportunity for them to get involved and learn about a different culture, its customs and traditions.”

In addition to the parade, a dinner is planned, but it is only for members of Friends of India.

“But anybody can join,” Signh said. “You just give $25 and become a member.”

Friends of India Las Vegas has been around for 25 years.

“We want our children to keep in touch with their culture,” Signh said.

Singh said there are about 5,000 people in the Indian community in the Las Vegas Valley.

Friends of India Las Vegas has about 1,500 members , or about 500 families.

But the organization isn’t just about keeping traditions alive in the community. Anyone is welcome to check out the organization to learn about the culture.

For more information, visit foilv.com.

Contact Henderson and Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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