Surrey Vaisakhi Parade - April 19, 2014

Vaisakhi, one of the most important events on the Sikh religious calendar, returns to the streets of Newton. The annual Vaisakhi parade will take place this Saturday, April 19. The parade will kick off at 9:30 a.m. at the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar, located at 12885 85th Ave.

For the last 12 years, Surrey's Vaisakhi parade has been one of the world's largest of its kind, outside of India. More than 200,000 people congregate on the streets to enjoy decorated floats, live music and free food and drink from local residents and businesses.

For thousands of years, Vaisakhi was traditionally a harvest festival holiday, representing a time when farmers would take their sickles out to harvest and celebrate the coming new year. The event now doubles as a holy day for the Sikh faith, as it marks the creation of the Khalsa and the Sikh identity.

The Khasla was created by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1669 when the country faced chaos, corruption and misery. It became a group of people within the community to challenge injustices and preserve the people's faith in the Sikh religion. The Guru also gifted distinctive clothing and headwear to the Sikh people, known as Bana, or the Five Ks. They are Kesh (unshorn hair), Kangha (the wooden comb), Karra (the iron bracelet), Kirpan (the sword) and Kachera (the underwear).

RCMP Sgt. Dale Carr, in charge of policing special events, will be handling the security at the parade. Carr doesn't expect too many changes in terms of policing the parade.

"It's pretty much the same that we've done in the past years," said Carr. This means the shutting down of several Surrey streets to prevent vehicular traffic along the parade's route. As a result, 128th Street will be closed from 85th to 76th Avenue, as well as 124th Street spanning 82nd to 74th Avenue.

A number of officers, traffic control persons and security will be placed at 57 spots along this route.

With up to 250,000 people anticipated to attend the parade, Carr says that he doesn't expect any fights or major disturbances.

"In the past four to five years, we've never had any problems with people, or in gaining compliance," he said. "We take into consideration what's gone in the past and we mix this with intelligence that we gather throughout the year ... to determine the number of resources we need on the ground to adequately police it and to ensure both traffic and public safety."

In terms of provocation from potentially controversial floats, Carr said police do an inspection of each of the floats leading up to the parade to ensure the removal of any offending material that doesn't match the Vaisakhi committee criteria.

The annual Vaisakhi parade will take place this Saturday, April 19. The parade will kick off at 9:30 a.m. at the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar, located at 12885 85th Ave. For more details, visit www.surreyvaisakhiparade.ca

Sukhi Kang

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