A Non-Stop Stage Show, and the Crowd Kept Coming at I-Fest 2015

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Photos: Raghu Thakkar


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By Jawahar Malhotra

STAFFORD:  All it took last year was a shift to a later starting time in the early afternoon at 2pm to get the crowds rolling in and the India Culture Center stuck to the same event format for this year’s 69th Indian Independence Day program held this past Sunday, August 16 at the Stafford Civic Centre on Cash Road, a site that has become synonymous with Indian programs over the past 15 years.

Encouraged by the response last year, which was a turnaround from previous years of declining attendance, the organizers held true to the same formula to ensure a large turnout, which was estimated at 3,400 people during the seven hour event, down to a similar tagline “Colors of India” for the program.  Over 54 vendors set up booths and three local eateries served food in the adjoining food court, which also had an inflatable jumping playpen for young kids and a first-ever craft, painting and educative corner run by Lana Ye.

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Over 16 area-wide organizations and groups participated to showcase their talents, many featuring dance and musical shows and a particularly anticipated moment was the children’s costume contest, to the delight of their friends and families. Among the crowd was visiting Telugu movie actor Raja (famous for the movie Anand) who was easily recognized and sought out for pictures.

A 24-foot long LED screen on-stage flashed ads from sponsors, pictures of heroes of India’s Independence, and moments of ICC events from the past year, particularly the unveiling of the Mahatma Gandhi Monument earlier in the day (see page 5), organized by Nisha Mirani, Ajit Patel and Yagnesh Patel; with a 36-page souvenir coordinated by Swapan Dhairyawan and Pramod Bengani.

Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella, ever a guest at these ICC functions, dropped in for some brief congratulatory remarks as did Mayor-Protem of Sugarland, Harish Jajoo who came with proclamations; Sugar Land Councilman Himesh Gandhi and Missouri City Councilman Ken Matthew. US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee spoke of US- India efforts in the global economy and Houston Mayoral candidates Adrian Garcia and Sylvester Turner made appearances and brief remarks as did Indian Consul-General Parvathaneni Harish.

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ICC President Charlie Patel and Event Chair Nisha Mirani spoke about the event and ICC role and vision and the program emcee was Shweta Arora. Nandita Harish, the CG’s wife lit the ceremonial lamp and their daughter, Amaani, performed a Kuchipudi solo dance. Surene sang the US National anthem and Paarth and Madhuri sang the Indian anthem. The Kids Costume contest (coordinated by Sapna Shah) had 16 participants and was judged by Parul Fernandes and Sangeeta Dua, with prizes by Anand and Dr. Ashima Chauhan. The Teen Essay contest (coordinated by Veena Kaul) had 11 participants, judged by Col. Raj Bhalla and Col. Vipin Kumar, with cash prizes by Munish Goel.

The cultural program (coordinated by Swapan Dhairyawan and Saneeta Pasrija) consisted of a wide variety of songs and energetic dances from local schools, featuring 178 performers, ages 4 to 80 and highlighting the diversity of Indian cultures and involvement from all parts of the local community. The performance by the Tiyaagi group was outstanding for the 38 performers, ages 5 to 50, who participated in an 18-minute long portrayal of Freedom Fighters and the struggle for Independence.

A surprise special recognition award was presented to Col. Bhalla and his wife Kanwal for dedicated service to the community. And closing out the community program was the announcement of raffle winners with great prizes from Travel Guzs, Sehgal Diamonds, Kohinoor Diamonds, Sara International and Parivar Grocers. Umang Mehta of Deep Foods provided all the volunteers and performers behind the scenes with complimentary juices, drinks and snacks. The sound system was by Krishna Sounds, with Darshak and Mona Thakkar handling the controls.

The evening segment of the event focused on a musical concert, Ek Sham Azaadi ke Naam by the touring Indian group Mumbai Masti featuring singers K.K., Alka and Aman, which brought in a lot of audience participation till it closed at 9pm. The concert was made possible by sponsorship from Western Union and Discount Power.

Gold Sponsor for the event was Moparty Family and Silver sponsors were Wallis State Bank, Ramesh Cherivirala, Sling TV, Yuppy TV, North American Title Company, MD & Associates and Paradise Gifts.