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Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh



Indianapolis, Indiana USA, May 19, 2009
Kanwal Prakash Singh

For the second year in row, the Nationalities Council of Indiana (NCI) was invited by The 500- Festival Associates to participate in the nationally-televised 500-Festival Parade. The annual Parade is one of the highlights of the month of May in Indianapolis as the last major event before the 500-Mile Race, often promoted as “the greatest spectacle in racing.”


This year’s NCI Parade Unit of some 200 participants represented eleven nationalities and ethnic groups: Chinese, Asian Indian, Turkish, Iranian, Filipino, Brazilian, Ethiopian, Hawaiian, and Sikhs. The NCI Parade Unit was a colorful and spirited composite of immigrant and native-born people who call Indiana home. The Parade participants wore ethnic festive attires, colorful native dresses that represented national or regional styles and pride. The NCI Parade Unit was led by Chinese Americans who paraded large colorful Chinese Dragons and Lions. The Dragon and Lion Dances at several stops along the 2-Mile Parade route were a crowd pleaser. An estimated 300,000 spectators lined the Parade route.

For the first time, Hoosier Sikhs were invited by the NCI to participate in The 500-Festival Parade. The Hoosier Sikh men in their colorful turbans, brocaded kurta-pyjama costumes and women in their Punjabi salwar-kameez and colorful scarves draped across their shoulders proudly walked the distance with their heads held high. Along the way, with a sense of pride and excitement of the moment, the Sikhs joyously shouted a few loud traditional proclamations, “Jakaras.” We imagined a time in the future when there would be a large presence of Sikhs and other ethnic communities along the Parade route to respond to such proclamations in acclamation. The ethnic dresses of the NCI Unit must have drawn their share of attention, but the Sikh turbans were hard to miss.

The 500-Festival Parade had over 100 colorful floats, massive helium theme-balloons, flags and banners, celebrated high school bands from around the country, 33-qualified Race Drivers, many Hollywood celebrities, and several national and international dignitaries. The NCI Parade Unit was a colorful composite of nationalities, ethnicities, cultures and costumes, continents and communities. Many of these Americans from distant and diverse lands were being introduced to the Hoosiers (a term that refers to Indiana residents), and for that matter to the audiences across the viewing area, for the very first time. Racing is the main focus and may be the undisputed anchor and attraction, but a sea of color, youthful energy, rocking and colorful bands, patriotic symbols and enthusiastic crowds, the world’s fastest Race Drivers and 500-Princesses, and antique cars and exotic rides are the true visual magic and heart of the Parade.

Reflection: I returned from this fabulous experience thinking how much more fun it is to be a part of a beautiful organized parade than to be a spectator. I also felt that it was generous of the 500-Festival Associates to invite people from diverse cultures to be a part of something so grand and rich with pomp and ceremony. I was grateful to the Nationalities Council of Indiana
President, Allen Galloway, and NCI Parade Unit Co-ordinator, Pat Hubley, for their generosity to invite the Sikh Americans to be a part of this year’s Parade Unit and to Maninder Singh Walia for organizing the Sikh participants. I was proud of the Hoosier Sikhs and all other groups for the positive spirit, cultural heritage, unbound energy, and personal dignity that they brought to this effort. Indiana’s growing diversity is securing its place and discovering new friends. That is cause for celebration and reason to work harder at new opportunities that come along next time.




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Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA