Trolley driver Ron Cooke waves from atop a life-size decorative elephant

Inclusive Diwali attracts huge crowds to White Rock

20,000-plus people drawn to inaugural event on White Rock waterfront.

The success of Saturday’s Diwali Integration Festival, held on White Rock’s waterfront, bodes well for the event’s future, officials say.

It’s estimated the festival, presented from noon till 8 p.m. by the Sanatan Cultural Society of B.C. and the city, drew 20,000 to 25,000 people to the beach over the course of the day.

“I think it has huge potential,” Eric Stepura, the city’s director of leisure services, said Monday.

“It was a very large crowd and a very… warm crowd. Lots of whole families coming down to enjoy it – three, four generations of people.”

The festival included live music, traditional dances, food trucks, a vendor marketplace, a life-size decorative elephant and fireworks.

White Rock Diwali festivalSanatan Cultural Society president Vivek Vasistha said the success was due to support from “so many organizations and it provided opportunity to all of us (to) learn about others and their cultures… We can build better communities by understanding better what others believe in, and this was the perfect occasion for that.”

Event chair Moti Bali said 10 cultural organizations were represented.

“This is the first time ever in the history of Canada that such an event of this magnitude has been held,” Bali said. “It was a festival of all the communities and all the cultures.”

Stepura noted that historically, Diwali – “the festival of lights” – is celebrated around the world by people whose family heritage is from India.

“In this case… they wanted to do something different. I think that really added to the success of the event,” he said.

Stepura and Bali are confident it will be “bigger and better” next year.


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