Canada is known for welcoming other cultures and celebrating their diversity, but migrating here from a far away country can still be an intimidating experience.
To help those from India or South Asia celebrate their culture locally and share it with area residents, Fort Frances' first Festival of India is coming to Rainy Lake Square on Monday (July 22) from 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
The event, which is being co-hosted by the Rainy River Future Development Corporation through the Town of Fort Frances and the Vedic Cultural Centre out of Thunder Bay, will kick off with various Indian dances.
The Florida-based Dasi group will perform Bharatanatyams-style dancing, while the Topaz group from Toronto is set to perform the Odissi dance.
There will also be henna artists, drumming performances, and authentic vegetarian dishes from different parts of India.
“While the dances and performances are going on, we'll have a buffet stand in the northeast corner of the square,” noted event organizer Gurvinder Grewal.
It is free to attend the event and witness the dancing performances, music, and art, but to try out the Indian cuisine there is a fee of $30 per person and discounts are available for group ticket purchases.
Tickets can be bought online before the event at: www.eventbrite.ca/e/festival-of-india-fort-frances-tickets-61476788730
“Anybody who's purchased a ticket will be given a bracelet so they can have as much food as they like,” Grewal explained.
He said it's hard to really experience another culture without trying their cuisine.
“I always emphasize food plays an especially important part in ones culture,” Grewal noted.
“In this case we love our spice so I really encourage people to try our food.”
“We mild it down but it still gives you an idea of the types of produce that's grown in India and so generally our cuisine consists of what we can grow domestically and being so close to the west end, in a rural district, I think a lot of people can appreciate that,” he added.
The Festival of India serves many purposes: it's meant to introduce local residents to different cultures and traditions, as well as increase their education.
“It's a recognition of the many cultures within India, because although India is one country, there are many cultures within it. And despite our differences, we live in peace and harmony for the most part,” Grewal said.
“I also think personally . . . it's a way of thanking Fort Frances for its hospitality,” Grewal lauded.
“In the past 10-11 months, when I first arrived there was probably no more than a handful of South Asians living in Fort Frances and now it has grown to well over 12-13 people.”
“It's a very welcoming city and the response on behalf of my friends who have come from Thunder Bay and Southern Ontario…has been very positive towards Fort Frances, so it's a way of giving back,” he added.
Grewal is expecting around 150 people to attend Fort Frances' first Festival of India and is hoping even more come out.
He said the event itself is for all ages and has something that can appeal to everyone's tastes.
“If you like seeing different kinds of dances, either . . . low pace to high pace, if you're into percussion instruments, drumming, sitars, or if you're into musical dramas or singing . . . or if you just want to come there and eat if you're hungry, it's a little bit of everything.”
Moving forward, Grewal is hopeful that the event will become annual depending on the turnout and overall response.
He is encouraging everybody to attend the free event and also purchase a ticket to try out some Indian dishes.
“If you want to truly experience a culture I think trying ones cuisine is inherently important,” Grewal noted.
“You can't really experience [the culture] otherwise-I don't think there's any substitute-and I'm bias but I think Indian cuisine is quite delicious so I say give it a try.”