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August 31, 1999
Nitish S Rele in Tampa
The twelfth edition of the annual India Festival, arguably the biggest Indian festival in Florida, is expected to draw more than 10,000 people not only from across Florida but also from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, as in years past. They will sample varieties of regional Indian food, dance to Indian music, and shop at booths selling Indian products.
Mainstream America has been invited to the India Festival for the first time. Schools in three neighbouring counties have been sent 5,000 complimentary tickets to the daylong event.
The September 18 event will be held at the University of South Florida Sun Dome in Tampa, and start at 1pm.
Some 55 booths will sell food, spices, clothing, jewellery, arts and crafts, books, videos and audiotapes. At least eight closed-circuit TV monitors will be installed so that people shopping or munching on the upper level don't miss the daylong folk dancing on the lower level.
The Gujarati Samaj of Tampa, an association that has 550 families as its members, is organising the event. An estimated 12,000 Indians call the Tampa Bay area home.
Nainan Desai, president of the Gujarati Samaj, says this year's India Festival will be different for several reasons. Usually, there is a folk dance competition. But that has changed for 1999. "Many traditional dances of India will now have their own competitions," he says. "That means we will have a colourful show and more opportunity to win prizes." Individual entertainment items have been eliminated.
Another first for the festival is that independent, out-of-state professional judges will be present for the dance competitions. First-prize winners will receive trophies. All the other participants will get certificates.
Dance competitions will be held for minors, juniors and seniors. "Right now, we have about 30-35 dances signed up and expect that figure to reach 40," said Desai. Some of the items will be a Koli dance, Bharatanatyam, Bhangra, Raas-Garba, Kolatam and Kummi.
The festival has a lady as chair for the first time in its 11-year history. "I felt that time had come that a woman can lead," says Desai. "Malti Pandya has done a great job."
No chief guest has been invited to the event. Instead, 50 special guests such as county commissioners, police officers and educators have been sent invitations in the form of free tickets to journey to India at the Sun Dome.
Also, the India Festival souvenir book will have an ad category index to serve as a resource for residents of the Bay area. An India Festival office was set up in June with a part-time secretary.
The events will start at 1pm and end at 10pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 12 years and under.
For information, call the office at (813) 354-6395 or check out the Samaj's Web site at www.gujaratisamaj.org
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