HUNDREDS of revelers
turned out for the annual Phagwah Sammelan (cultural variety concert)
on Saturday afternoon in Richmond Hill for six hours of non-stop
entertainment that included traditional Holi songs. It was outstanding
first class entertainment that was accompanied by clapping and
cheering. The outdoor concert was
held at the compound of the Maha Lakshmi Mandir on 123rd Street and 101
Ave. Although Guyanese dominated, the huge crowd and performers
included many non-Guyanese, including other West Indians and Indians
from South Asia, with standing room only and the crowd overflowing onto
the sidewalks. People came from far and near and were in a very
Colourful dry abrack and gulal and talc powder were smeared on the
celebrants, many of whom were dressed in traditional Indian garb. Hot
food and beverages were served at the back of the crowd in a make shift
kitchen on the sidewalk as entertainers performed on stage in front.
There were performances of musical bands, tassa drumming, singing,
dancing, drama, chowtal gols, and skits.
The event was organized by the Phagwah Parade and Festival Committee
headed by Dr. Tara Singh of Canal # 1 and Shrad Kublall of
Mahaicony. Several dozen temples and cultural organisations
partook in the festivities presenting performances. The festival
started around 2:00 and went well past 8:00 P.M.
There was police presence to facilitate the celebration. The program
was carried live on the Indo-Caribbean radio station. It was also
filmed for TV showing.
There was a continuous stream of people going in and out of the temple
compound. Many danced to the fast tempo music and daubed abrack on one
another or sprinkled talc powder on each other. The tassa drumming also
brought many to their feet.
The organizers catered free meals and beverages for the large gathering
that included people of different ethnicities. The food was delicious.
Some in the crowd were seen going for seconds. Some had take-away
Guyanese-American John Sampson, leader of the NY State Senate, was the
Guest of Honor. He described Richmond Hill as his family and referred
to the crowd as fellow Guyanese. He applauded the organizers for
hosting the celebration and presented awards to Pandit Ramrattan and
the children of the late Shri Prakash Gossai for their father’s
contributions to Hinduism in NY. Sampson showered praise on Attorney
Albert Baldeo who introduced Sampson saying Baldeo was responsible for
the Democrats winning the majority in the State Senate making it
possible for Sampson to become the Majority Leader.
Community newspapers carried special stories on the Holi festival.
Businesses sponsored ads with Phagwah Greetings as is the custom in
Guyana. The Indo-Caribbean Federation put out a special issue of its
publication, Indo-Caribbean Review, on the Holi festival. TV and
radio programs also aired specials over the last couple weekends.
The Phagwah celebration concluded Sunday with the annual Phagwah
Parade. A large gathering of over 20,000 was expected. It was the
21st edition of the parade.