A festival to showcase South-East Asian culture has been given the thumbs-up for White Rock’s West Beach.
Council voted unanimously Monday evening to provide $7,000 in in-kind support to the White Rock Diwali Integration Festival, which is planned for noon to 8 p.m. on Oct. 18.
“We have an opportunity here,” Eric Stepura, the city’s leisure services director, told council. “They’re expecting somewhere in the neighbourhood of 7-10,000 visitors.”
According to Stepura, the city was approached in July by representatives of the White Rock/South Surrey-based Sanatan Cultural Society of B.C.
The Diwali festival of lights is one that is celebrated worldwide, Stepura said. The local event is to have more than 100 performers, as well as artists from other cultures. Other elements planned include plays, food and merchandise vendors and fireworks.
“This is the first time ever the city of White Rock will be celebrating Diwali,” volunteer Moti Bali told Peace Arch News, noting that in commemorating the victory of Lord Ram over Ravan, the demon king of Lanka, the “triumph of light over darkness” symbolizes the victory of goodness over bad.
Organizers of the event for the Sanatan Cultural Society are Vivek Vasitha, Aditya Mohan, Simmi Vasitha and Tajaswita Mohan.
The city’s contribution will cover waste removal, the use of city property, installation of additional lighting, safety fencing for the fireworks zone and RCMP security during the fireworks.
While Coun. Helen Fathers thought the $7,000 figure seemed low, Stepura said it is about on par with the city’s contribution to last weekend’s Moon Festival – $14,000 for a three-day event.
Coun. Louise Hutchinson noted that organizers of a St. Patrick’s day event were made to reimburse the city for lost pay-parking revenue; they were also responsible for providing security. She questioned why the same wasn’t being asked of Diwali festival organizers.
“I would like to know that these people are not getting anything that we did not give the Irish festival,” Hutchinson said.
Stepura noted the main difference between the two is that the Sanatan Cultural Society is non-profit, whereas the St. Patrick’s Day function was put on by a business.
Hutchinson also questioned the city’s $1,500 commitment to additional lighting on trees, but Stepura said that cost may be shared with the Business Improvement Association.
He assured that organizers are not relying solely on city funds to pull the festival off. Costs of hosting such events are “well in excess of the $7,000 we would be contributing,” he said.
In recommending the city pitch in, Stepura said such community festivals “create a sense of identity, belonging, pride and spirit; promote arts, culture and heritage, foster volunteerism and attract visitors.”
He suggested that the city’s contribution be funded from the contingency budget.
Next organizing meeting for the event will take place at 11 a.m., Sept. 15 at Leisure Services’ offices at White Rock Community Centre.