SNC’s Vaisakhi Mela Grows with Added Amenities for Festival Lovers

Mela organizers and volunteers, from left, Harwinder Singh, Ripudaman Boparai, Gurbir Boparai, Manohar Singh Mann, Hitpaul Singh Sandhar, Bhupinder Singh, Batcha Tiwari (a vendor) and Gurmeet Saini.

Mela organizers and volunteers, from left, Harwinder Singh, Ripudaman Boparai, Gurbir Boparai, Manohar Singh Mann, Hitpaul Singh Sandhar, Bhupinder Singh, Batcha Tiwari (a vendor) and Gurmeet Saini.

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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: The 20-acre Sikh National Center site on the West Sam Houston Beltway has been an evolution in slow but steady motion, with new additions as the money is raised and spent on various structures. With purposeful steps, it has taken on the semblance of the master plan model that is on display in the temporary gurdwara behind the other original structures. Just this past year, the steel frame sports pavilion has been fitted with lower siding panels and a canopy skirt to reduce the drenching from rainfall and provide some extra shade.

Work on the interior of the permanent gurdwara has yet to be completed but the site is starting to take shape, perhaps in part by the huge khed mela that has been held each of the past five years in the central open area in conjunction with Vaisakhi which falls in the same time slot.  Back in 2013, it was envisioned as an event for young kids to play games, but slowly the organizers, led by coordinator Hitpaul Singh Sandhar, have realized the potential for a community-wide celebration.

Busy throughout the day were, from left, Bhupinder Singh, Harjit Galhotra, Gurminder Anjala and Gurmeet Singh

Busy throughout the day were, from left, Gurmeet Saini, Bhupinder Singh, Harjit Galhotra, Gurminder Anjala and Gurmeet Singh

“We realize that this is the only such large festival on this side of town,” said Sandhar in-between taking care of activities at the the mela this past Sunday, April 29. “And we would like to get better organized to attract other people to this fun-filled event.” With a larger budget this year donated just for the mela, Sandhar and his team have seen how the event can grow.

This year, the mela was certainly more fun due to tented pavilions all around the maidan (central lawn) to view the sports and allow people to linger in the open under shade which freed up the pavilion where everyone used to be crowded into before.  The langar was served inside the gurdwara lobby instead of outside under the pavilion, resulting in dense lines inside.

Ten teams took part in the volleyball contest

Ten teams took part in the volleyball contest

All the food booths were moved to the emergency road on the western edge and everything was free, in contrast to the small charge for gol-gappe last year. Instead of making hot jalebis under the pavilion, Najjar Singh of Standard Sweets set up under a tent in the lineup. Pizza, popular with all the kids, was ferried from the main oven in the temporary gurdwara to another stall.

In the adjacent unfinished dirt lot, a small choo-choo train made lazy eights in the sun with its three bogeys of passengers. In the last space left with some pine trees, a children’s play area was crowded with young kids at the inflatable moonwalks and castles, a petting zoo and a cotton-candy booth.

A crowd of spectators enjoyed the games

A crowd of spectators enjoyed the games

An estimated 2,500 people came to the mela under bright, blue skies and crisp weather to the completely free event. There was a steady stream of teams – some from as far away as Dallas and Mexico – of young men competing for the top prizes of $1,100 each in the volleyball tournament. And there were more fun games for the younger children, like the tug-of-war; 50 meter race, 3-legged race, sack race, spoon race, shot putt, musical chairs and basketball. With mic in hand, Narinder Nagra took his job as the sports announcer with great fun, prompting teams into action.

But most of all, for many it was just hanging out with other Punjabis and feeling like being back in pastoral Punjab, in a corner of the Bayou City.

SNC-in-4

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