A fest reborn 

The aroma of chicken tikka and frying samosas tend to lure unsuspecting downtown office-goers to Hart Plaza each year — but exquisitely spiced food isn't the only draw of the Festival of India, which last year summoned more than 30,000 attendees. The weekend is one of those "something for everyone" affairs.

The festival begins around noon on Friday, simply to cater to the work-lunch crowd, and then again officially that evening with a "Colors of India" opening ceremony to celebrate India's 60th year of independence from Britain. A Miss India Michigan pageant will start the evening, followed by a performance with the boy- bandesque pop star Raghav.

A variety of competitions take place on Saturday — in painting, singing and dancing — and an evening concert with rapper Kidd Skilly and Bhangra performer Juggy D. A Mr. India Michigan pageant will take place Sunday, followed by a "musical extravaganza" and closing ceremonies.

The festival was launched in the mid-'70s by Jaydevi and Bharat Sanghvi, and soon became the event that Indian-Americans looked forward to all year. The gusto tapered off over the years, however, as Detroit deteriorated.

By the mid-'90s, the festival no longer took place downtown, replaced by similar events in the suburbs.

But the fest relaunched in 2005, helmed by Jack Sandhu, Gurvinder Singh, Raj Sanghvi and Alok Manchada. Paying for the festivities mostly out of pocket, the organizers say they'll take any losses for the sake of continuance. But Sandhu says the festival has been a hit for the past two years, and shows promise to expand. Because, say the organizers, it's a tradition that they cherished as kids, and are more than happy to continue.

"My friends and I would spend all summer practicing for the dances — it was one of the highlights of the year," says Sharon Thomas, one of the organizers and a former Miss Michigan India. "So when I had an opportunity to help restart the festival, there was no doubt in my mind — I want my kids to be able to experience what I once did."

 

Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Hart Plaza, at the foot of Woodward Ave., downtown Detroit; call 248-552-8833 or visit festivalofindiadetroit.com for more info.

Meghana Keshavan is Metro Times listing editor. Send comments to mkeshavan@metrotimes.com

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