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Yuba City Sikh Parade is lesson in food, culture
Aubrey Astle, 19, of Las Vegas, savored the last bit of poori — puffy fried bread — on her plate. She extolled the wonders of various Northern Indian dishes she'd been introduced to earlier in the day, but could not name.
Astle, a veterinary medicine student at the University of Nevada, Reno, had been lured to the annual Sikh Parade in Yuba City on Sunday by that universal magnet for college students: free food.
"You guys are so nice out here," said Thayvi Ganeshalingam, 19, of Dublin, who also was attending for the first time.
"We didn't have to pay for anything," said her friend and fellow student, Claudia Cordero, 19, also of Dublin.
Cordero said the generosity involved in feeding so many people — more than 60,000 attend the festival each year — was mind-boggling.
The three UNR students had heard about the event from Cameron Ripley, 20, of Yuba City.
Ripley talked about 10 of his former dormitory-mates from the school into joining him on a pilgrimage home for Sunday's parade, which marked the end of the weekend event's 33rd year.
The three-day fall festival commemorates the inauguration of the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism's holy scriptures, in 1699, and the guru, or Sikh leader, who created it.
"It's the biggest thing in this area," said Matt Priddy, 19, a Yuba College student who accompanied the group.
But in spite of its longevity and the fact that it attracts thousands of visitors each year from across the state and beyond, Priddy and Ripley said that older generations of Yuba City residents have stayed away from the event.
"My parents have never been to this," Priddy said.
Non-Sikh Yuba City residents tended to ignore the festival until recently, said Ripley.
His own generation is far more culturally adventurous, he said.
The group hiked a couple miles Sunday to the Yuba City Sikh Temple on Tierra Buena Road — the heart of the festival.
They marveled at the crowd and at the exotic sights and sounds of the parade floats.
"There's so much color," said Megan Maes, 19, a social work major from Ely, Nev., who had never seen so many brightly dressed people in one place.
The trip had been a lesson in cultural geography, too.
Dhanya Mathew, 19, a nursing student from Granite Bay, has family roots in India. But her background is Hindu. She found herself explaining and interpreting some of what her friends were witnessing, and seeing some new things too.
"I didn't realize there were so many areas and cultures in India," said Cordero. "It's very diverse there."
But it was food, ultimately, that ruled the day.
Poori, Astle said, was something everybody in the group loved.
"We went back for seconds," she said.
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.