Color and culture take center stage during Naperville's India Day

Among the Indian values Vasavi Chakka of Naperville was raised with is a belief in universal brotherhood.

That's why, as she helps plan the fourth annual India Day parade and celebration with other members of the Naperville Indian Community Outreach group, she is inviting people of other cultures to attend as well.

“That value reflects through this event,” Chakka said. “Inclusiveness.”

Planned as an immersive introduction to Indian culture for those of other backgrounds, and as a celebration of the country's history and traditions for those of Indian descent, the free event is set for 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12, in Knoch Park at 724 S. West St.

Indian food, dance, clothing, education, entertainment and health and wellness practices will be among the facets of life on display during a bazaar, talent show, fashion show, parade, concert and fireworks, organizers say.

“We want people to come here and have fun and really learn about the Indian culture and be part of it,” said Krishna Bansal, chairman of Naperville Indian Community Outreach. “People of all ethnicities.”

Bansal said last year's event drew an estimated 30,000 people from the suburbs, as well as Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. Organizers say the crowds have grown in each of the event's three years, starting in 2015 when it featured only a parade.

This year's parade steps off at 4 p.m. from Naperville Central High School and is expected to last roughly 90 minutes.

“Our parade is different — it's not like any regular parade,” Bansal said about the milelong route. “It's a display of dances and culture. We have 50 decorated floats. It's a totally different kind of parade, and an amazing parade.”

Before the procession, the festival grounds will open at 11 a.m. with a bazaar of cultural merchandise and a food court of ethnic dishes. This year's food options come from 15 regional Indian eateries regarded as the best of the best, including restaurants from Naperville, Hoffman Estates and Oak Brook.

“They are representing different kinds of foods from different states of India,” Chakka said. “You will have fusion of flavors available for people who like spicy Indian or sweet Indian food, or different tastes of India. It's a much larger selection than before.”

Also expanded at this year's event will be a kids area run by volunteers from KidsMatter and 360 Youth Services. The play space will feature activities such as bounce houses, a petting zoo, robotics, Lego building and arts and crafts, organizers say.

New this year is an autism awareness area and a free health and wellness fair with general checkups, consultations with physicians, mammograms, bone density screenings, diabetes screenings, nutritional guidance and a blood drive.

But the Indian cultural interpretation of health goes beyond these basics, Chakka said. It also includes ancient concepts of medical science and values-based education, which two vendors will explain and display.

Santhigram Wellness Kerala Ayurvda in Naperville will showcase the ayurveda system of mind-body medicine, while Chinmaya Mission religious and cultural education center in Willowbrook will explain its practices in Vedantic studies, or values-based education, which Chakka said is much needed in today's society.

But fun is part of the Indian culture, too, and singer Sukhwinder Singh will bring it.

“He's a rock kind of an artist,” Bansal said. “Very powerful. People love him.”

Known for the song “Jai Ho” from the 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire,” Singh has won an Academy Award for best original song and a Grammy for best song written for a motion picture, television or other visual media.

“His songs are actually motivating and patriotic and entertaining,” Chakka said — not just entertaining. “That's what makes him different than other singers.”

Singh is scheduled to take the stage around 7 p.m. But first, there will be a talent show at 12:30 p.m., a fashion show at 6 p.m., introductions of local leaders and festival organizers at 6:30 p.m. and eventually a set by the winner of the earlier talent show.

Once Singh's songs conclude, a fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. will cap off the event.

“It's very unique,” Chakka said about the daylong celebration. “Don't miss it.”

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An expanded kids area is designed to be part of the India Day festival setup in Knoch Park in Naperville. Daily Herald file photo August 2017
Experience the culture of India during the fourth annual India Day parade and celebration from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12, at Knoch Park in Naperville. Daily Herald file photo August 2016

India Day parade and celebration

When: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12

Where: Knoch Park, 724 S. West St.; with parade starting at Naperville Central High School, 440 Aurora Ave.

Who: Hosted by Naperville Indian Community Outreach featuring a 7 p.m. concert by Grammy Award-winning Bollywood singer Suhkwinder Singh

Cost: Free admission; food, clothing and cultural items for sale

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