AIA Diwali celebration features vegan fair, dance competition, COVID Clinic, and fireworks

New York: Rain could not dampen the enthusiasm of the revelers as hundreds of members of the community gathered at South Street Seaport on Oct. 2 for the 35th Deepavali Festival organized by the Association of Indians in America (AIA), New York chapter. AIA is one of the oldest Indian-American organizations in the country.

The flagship event of AIA-NY attracts tens of thousands of New Yorkers every year. This year the number of visitors was around 50,000, a press release from AIA indicated. According to the AIA, the Deepavali Festival is considered by far the largest attraction for Indian Americans in the tri-state area.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams presenting a citation to AIA president Harish Thakkar

There was a variety of fine cuisine, handicrafts, and gift items, as well as the works of contemporary Indian artists on the display along with scintillating performances of classical and fusion music. A fashion show, a vegan expo, and fun-filled children’s activities were the other attractions of the festival.

Traditional Indian dance performance during the Nache Inferno dance competition

The glitterati at AIA’s Deepavali festival at South Street Seaport NYC mayor Eric Adams, New York State assemblyman David Weprin and NY Governor Kathleen Hochul’s representative who not only attended the festival but also addressed the gathering. The annual festival is known for attracting elected officials and representatives of various government and non-government agencies.

Attendees enjoyed themselves and danced to the foot-tapping tunes

AIA President Harish Thakkar on behalf of the Indian-American community reminded Mayor Adams about the long pending demand for the Diwali holiday in NYC Schools. “All have been waiting for a long time and now is the time to pass a resolution for the Indian community to have a Diwali holiday in NYC Schools,” Thakkar said.

Nache Inferno dance competition saw dazzling performances by seven teams

Mayor Eric Adams in this speech assured the community that he is working with the Indian community leaders for the Diwali holiday in NYC Schools.

Dr. Dara Kass with Mrs. & Mr. Lev of Xpress Lane Pharmacy and Kamlesh Mehta at the COVID Clinic. Advanced COVID Booster Vaccines were made available at the Diwali Mela.

One of the highlights of the event was the “Nache Inferno” dance competition where seven teams from colleges around the country, including Boston and Maryland participated.

Danver-based Bollywood singer star Rex D’Souza also performed at the event. Music and dance programs along with other entertaining performances enthralled the audience. Overall, the performances showcased Indian ideals, cultural values, and traditions. “We will do our part to educate our children and impress the need to keep our culture and traditions,” Harish Thakkar, AIA president said in a statement.

The Vegan Expo hosted by World Vegan Vision saw huge crowds interested in sampling some of the foods and the cooking demonstration. Two doctors spoke about the benefits of going vegan. A vegan standup comic artist and a vegan music band also played for the audience.

Since 1987, when the annual event was started by AIA, the South Street Deepavali event has become a New York tradition, much anticipated every year by not just Indians and Indian-Americans in the tri-state area, but also other ethnicities interested in the color and pageantry of the Indian culture.

Free COVID booster shots by We Can do This Campaign

Dr. Dara Kass, HHS Regional Director of Region-2, informing the attendees about updated vaccines. Also seen in the photo: Padmashree Dr. Sudhir Parikh, AIA-NY President Harish Thakkar, Nick Garg, Kamlesh Mehta, Sawiti Vaishnav, and others.

For the first time ever, AIA-NY partnered with the We Can Do This campaign – a COVID public education campaign of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and provided free updated COVID vaccines on the spot.

HHS Regional Director of Region-2, Dr. Dara Kass encouraged attendees to take the advantage of the available updated vaccines at the on-site COVID clinic. She also thanked President Thakkar, AIA-NY, and Xpresslane Pharmacy for their partnership. Many attendees took advantage of the available updated vaccines at the event and took the booster shot.

A festival attendee taking a jab of updated COVID vaccine booster shot at the camp

Image courtesy of (All Image Credit: Thakur Photo/ Forsythe Media Group)

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