Perfect weather and a few different significant anniversaries could result in the most well-attended Nagar Kirtan ever. Organizers of this weekend’s annual Sikh parade and festival are gearing up for the influx of participants and spectators into the Yuba-Sutter area.
“We believe it could be the largest gathering we’ve ever seen and we are prepared for that,” said Karm Bains, a board member with the Sikh Temple in Yuba City. “This will be the 40th annual parade in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the temple itself opening. We will also be commemorating the Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who was the first guru and founder of the Sikh faith and was born 550 years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if over 150,000 people attended.”
Estimates for past festivals have ranged in the 80,000 or more range.
The three-day festival is a celebration of the Sikh faith and culminates in the parade on Sunday, which is a celebration of the inauguration day of Siri Guru Granth Sahib, or principal scripture of Sikhism.
While formal festivities begin on Friday morning, activities have been going on at the temple for over a month, including a continuous reading of prayers since Sept. 12.
As the main event approaches, local families have begun preparing food, goods and welcoming guests flocking to the Yuba-Sutter area to attend the annual festival.
“It originally started as a dream, but I don’t think anyone would have expected it to turn out to be what it is today. This event belongs to the Yuba-Sutter community. Everybody should feel like it’s theirs,” Bains said. “We are truly blessed for those folks that had the vision and put in all the hard work to help grow this event. What they had to go through to give us this opportunity, we are forever thankful and grateful.”
Bains’ father, Didar, is credited as being one of the founders of the event.
Bains said his father got the idea for it after attending a similar event held in Canada in the 1970s. After taking a group from the temple to attend the event, they went about establishing their own in the Yuba-Sutter area. When it first started, it was mainly attended by members of the local temple, but it has grown into a worldwide event.
Bains said the annual parade is the second largest parade in the United States, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade being the only event with a better show of attendance.
“If it wasn’t for local law enforcement, police, the sheriff, fire, highway patrol, and local officials from the city and county, none of this would be possible. They all play an integral role of making this all come together,” he said. Public safety officials close down several roads in a portion of the city to accommodate the three-day festival. Aside from a minor inconvenience for motorists, Bains said, the event’s economic impact on the region is significant, with attendees booking out hotels all the way to Sacramento, and the influx of people spending money at local businesses.