SNC Participates at Thanksgiving Downtown Parade

Photos: Jaswant Singh & Jawahar Malhotra

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By Gursharan Singh

HOUSTON: Thanksgiving Parade is always a big draw for the thousands of people from across the Metroplex who line the route several rows deep, many in their comfortable folding chairs arriving an hour or two beforehand to get a good viewing site. Who, after all, doesn’t enjoy a good old fashioned American parade with marching bands, floats, pageantry and the colorful aspects of the city?

Over the past two decades, as Houston’s diversity has grown, many groups representing their cultures and traditions have taken part to highlight the variety inherent in the area and this year brought out many such floats and marchers. There were groups representing the Chinese, Filipino, American-Indian (for the first time), Sister Cities project and the Sikh Americans from the Sikh National Center for the third time.

The Sikh National Center Gurdwara participated once again in this year’s annual HEB’s Thanksgiving Day parade in downtown Houston. About 150 Sikh children, women, and men dressed in colorful Punjabi clothes, carrying the American, Texas and Sikh Religious flags walked alongside the specially decorated Sikh float. SNC Gurdwara Management Committee President Sampuran Singh, proudly stood on the float, tirelessly waiving the U.S. flag. “I am so glad that finally Sikhs are part of this large mosaic and our participation is very good for the entire community and it will strengthen our roots,” he said. Volunteers walking alongside passed out brochures of the SNC and pens bearing its website address.

The float bore messages from the Sikh community and was designed and organized by Gursharan Singh who is the Director of the Miri-Piri Sikh Gatka Dal, a local Sikh martial arts group which has also participated in such public events across the country. Gursharan and his team of 20 young Sikhs demonstrated various martial arts maneuvers – called Gatka in Punjabi – along the parade route and handed out a flyer describing the Gatka and the main Sikh principles behind this art.

Although participation in the parade entails an expense of several thousand dollars, it provided visibility for Houston area Sikhs before an estimated audience of 450,000 along the route and via TV coverage. Dr. Hardam Singh Azad, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the SNC, explained that “the Board is committed to bringing the Sikhs into the mainstream as proud and loyal U.S. Citizens.”

“This was a great chance to show that Sikhs are part of the mainstream America and that we are equally joyous in the Thanksgiving celebrations,” said Gursharan Singh. “This provided an opportunity for our youngsters to feel pride of being Sikh Americans.” He was tirelessly assisted by Sahibjeet Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Harjit Singh Galhotra, Gurmeet Singh Saini, Harsharndeep Kaur, Harleen Kaur, Jagatbir Singh and Sampuran Singh to organize the event.

The 20-acre SNC site at 7500 N. Sam Houston Parkway West (across Sam Houston Race Park) has been the focus of most of the Sikh community’s efforts for the past 16 years as a master-planned center that would house a Gurdwara as well as a boarding school, auditorium, museum, library, pavilion and residence for priests. Purchase of the site and the phased construction of the main temple building has been funded by countless donation drives.

Now the end seems to be in sight as Gurdwara elders envision holding a huge celebration of Guru Nanak’s 550th Birth Anniversary in 2019 in the new worship sanctuary. Other buildings will be built in the future.