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Over 10,000 people join Diwali festivities in California

By Ritu Jha
October 31, 2012 19:27 IST
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More than 10,000 people attended the 10th annual Diwali event hosted by the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce and its Asian American Business Council at Memorial Park in Cupertino, California, on October 13.

The event had about 100 booths offering Indian food, clothing, Diwali crafts items, and organising activities for children, including face painting sessions and music.

A traditional rangoli display covered the center of the park. Local dance school students performed Bollywood dances.

Mahesh Nihalani, the event chair, said that what started as a small event with 250 attendees has become a signature event of Cupertino.

"It was just a three-hour thing that comprised of cultural dance performance, food and couple of booths. Now it's huge," Nihalani told

This year, he said, he had to refuse 42 offers to rent booths, and restrict participation to cultural dance schools because of a shortage of time slots. The festival this year had 45 dance schools and 350 performers.

Nihalani pointed out that the event relies on volunteers, and on about $30,000 to $35,000 in sponsorship.

Nihalani, a jeweler, said he had seen other communities celebrate their festivals in California -- the Lunar Parade, the Cherry Blossom Parade, the Iranian festival, the Armenian festival, etc.

"But there was nothing Indian," he added.

"I decided to do something about it and took initiative with some like-minded people. Today it has become the festival most looked forward to in Cupertino and in the Bay Area."

Nihilani said the Diwali Community Beneficiary, begun last year, donates part of the funds raised from the festival to non-profit organisations. Last year, he said, $2,000 was donated to Jeena Kids, a self-help group of parents in Milpitas dedicated to improving the quality of life of parents and children with developmental disorder.

Cupertino Mayor Mark Santoro said, "It's a great festival and I see it has gone much bigger over the years."

He said in the early days there hardly were a couple of council members to show up. Today half the elected officials could be seen over the stage.

"It has become a big deal, from its very humble beginning I think," he said.

Snehal Devani, a first-time vendor at the festival, said, "We came last year as spectators and customers to the festival. So this time I jumped on it as soon they posted about it."

Ashish Shukla, a Sunnyvale resident who came along with his family, said though there are many Diwali festivals around in the Bay Area, "I just come here each year."


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Ritu Jha