Posted by: Singh Is King | Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sikh Festival takes to Chicago streets

sikh-festival.jpgDevon Avenue in Chicago teemed with color and activity Sunday morning as the participants in the Sikh parade, part of the 13th annual Punjabi Sports Festival, processed slowly down the street.

Orange-turbaned Punj Pyaare (five beloved ones) garbed in orange kurtas and white pajama pants led the procession, followed by five women in traditional clothing carrying orange flags marked with a blue Khanda symbol.

White-clothed, blue-turbaned singers and dohl (drum) players sat aboard the orange-and-white float, which was capped with yellow flags.

Outfits and head coverings of different colors dotted the parade and its spectators. Even the banners for the Sikh Religious Society, Gurdwara Sahib of Chicago, and festival sponsor Mutual Bank were brightly colored.

The parade dispersed in front of a Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) before the inauguration ceremony in Warren Park, the main site of the festivities organized by the Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago.

The Punj Pyaare (five beloved ones) lead The Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago in a parade down Devon Avenue in Chicago Sunday before the opening ceremony of the 13th annual Punjabi Sport Festival at Warren Park in Chicago. (Mark Black/Daily Herald)

After a Sikh prayer and a singing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins officially kicked off the festival for the 13th year in a row. “Let the games begin!” she said, releasing a bunch of multicolored balloons into the summer sky.

State Rep. Jan Schakowsky praised the “wonderful celebration” as just another example of the district’s diversity.

“It’s really a beacon to the rest of the world, how people of diverse backgrounds can live and work and play and eat together all on Devon Avenue and throughout our community,” Schakowsky said.

Athletes competed in soccer, volleyball, and kabaddi, a south Asian team sport with elements of wrestling, rugby and tag. Festival goers were able to watch the matches, partake in bhangra aerobics and warrior workout yoga classes, taste Indian dishes, and play games like tug-of-war or musical chairs.

“It’s always fun to watch sports,” said Jeet Singh, 18, of Arlington Heights, who came to the festival with his family after temple services and planned to stay all day. It was the Singhs’ first time attending the event.

Bhavdeep Sethi, 36, and his wife Harkirat, 28, from Naperville, also first-timers, put the festival on their calendar about a month ago.

“We never knew about this (before this year),” Bhavdeep Sethi said. “We’re having fun.”

This year marked the first time the Punjabi Sports Festival took place in Chicago — aside from the basketball tournament Saturday in Palatine’s Birchwood Park. In previous years, it mostly took place in various locations around Palatine.

But the relocation’s not a big deal, according to Rajinder Singh Mago, co-founder and board of governors member of the Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago. The fest previously moved outside of Palatine three times, having spent one year each in Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, and Glen Ellyn.

“We’re trying locations, creating more awareness in all different areas,” Mago said. Still, the society currently plans to return to Palatine again next year. “Palatine is like home.”

Courtesy: Hana Yoo, daily herald

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