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Indianapolis, Indiana USA
June 5, 2010
Kanwal Prakash Singh

One of the three nationally televised parades in the country, the 500 Festival Parade is a major event in Indiana.  One day before the 500-Mile Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the greatest spectacle in the racing world, the annual Parade includes fabulous local and national high school bands, accomplished equestrians and motorcyclists, famous race drivers and celebrities, civic leaders and Festival princesses, beautiful floats and giant balloons.  There are colorful banners, popular dance and music artists, and high-stepping performers with raw energy and crowd-pleasing elements that dazzled 300,000 spectators along the Parade route of over two miles through downtown Indianapolis.  This year’s Parade was bigger, better, and more colorful.

A recent highlight in the IPL 500 Festival Parade [Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) is a major sponsor of the Parade] is the inclusion of a Nationalities Unit, comprised of various national and ethnic groups that are part of the Hoosier cultural and spiritual landscape.  This year, two giant Chinese dragons, fabled lions, and young dancers led the Nationalities Council of Indiana (NCI) parade unit.  Other countries and ethnic groups besides the Chinese Americans who partcipated this year included the Native Americans, U.S.A., Ethopia, Phillipines, Germany, Guinea, India, Taiwan, Turkey, Sikh Americans, and others.  Nearly 200 participants wearing colorful and festive traditional costumes, proudly celebrating their cultural heritage, introducing growing diversity to Indiana citizens and the nation, followed the mythical dancing Chinese dragons.

The 2010 500 Festival Parade organized by The 500 Festival Associates was supported by many businesses and institutions, sponsoring the various floats and Parade units; the NCI had the pleasant task of organizing the international unit.  It was exciting to see the response of the spectators to the colorful national flags, Chinese dragons, turbaned Sikhs, festive Punjabi outfits, Taiwanese and Turkish folk and dance costumes, the Filipino ladies in traditional dresses with their parasols; and Indians, Ethopians, other groups in exotic and colorful native dresses.  The muticultural and multigenerational unit added another fun element to the famous Festival Parade.


It is wonderful to see these NCI parade participants interacting and forming new friendships with other groups in the Parade.  Of even greater significance is the fact that these once invisible groups are stepping out in style and adding a rich cultural and international flavor to a signature event that defines the ‘Circle City’ of Indianapolis and in the process developing a sense of belonging to a place that many call home.  Along with the imaginative creativity, celebrities, youth culture, colorful pageantry on parade, we see the nationality and ethnic groups adding new cosmopolitan textures, fascinating richness, and related cultural and spiritual attractions to our city.  This is cause for celebration.  In time, we may see these communities interfacing with ideas and institutions in place, even taking a lead in transplanting other facets of their hertiage, seeking ways to fully engage and invest in their new homeland.  Imagine future colorful nationality floats in our parades and festive cultural celebrations that fill giant stadiums!




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“KP” Singh,
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