British Columbia

200K celebrate Vaisakhi at Vancouver parade, organizers say

The attendance estimates for the 2024 Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver are down from last year's 300,000, according to organizers.

Vaisakhi festivities included colorful parade floats, live performances, and free food

Thousands attend Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver

2 months ago
Duration 0:54
The sights, sounds and food of the 2024 Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade and Festival in South Vancouver on Saturday.

An estimated 200,000 people took to the streets of sunny South Vancouver on Saturday to celebrate Vaisakhi with a day full of music, colourful floats, and food. 

Vaisakhi marks the first harvest and the coming of a new year, according to the Vancouver Khalsa Diwan Society, which organizes the parade.

For Sikhs, it also marks the creation of the order of the Khalsa in 1699 — a defining moment in Sikh history which gave the Sikh faith its final form.

"For me, Vaisakhi is for uniting the people,"  said parade marshal Jagdeep Sanghera. "Standing up for what's right, standing up for common sense, building a better Canada."

The event also drew a number of politicians including Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Premier David Eby.  

A line of women wearing head coverings pray with their hands folded.
A woman pauses at the Khalsa Diwan Society Sikh temple before the Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver on Saturday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

"I'm so glad to be here, the sun's shining, it's an important religious celebration for the Sikh community," said Eby.

"For the broader community, [it's] a chance for us all to reflect on the contributions of people of the Sikh faith here in British Columbia."

Vaisakhi is marked by colourful processions, as well as the practice of serving free meals to the community in acts of seva and langar, two significant aspects of the Sikh religion. 

Parmjeet Parmar and her family worked through the night, preparing free food to hand out to parade-goers. 

"We're serving pakoras and besan. [Besan] is made with chickpea flour and it's a sweet. The pakora is made with chickpea flour, and it's salty and deep fried," said Parmar. "A few people, they work all night to make this food since yesterday, from 12 [a.m.] until this morning about 6 [a.m.]." 

A person walks past a colourful float with images of Sikh religious figures. Women sit atop the float, which is adorned with Punjabi letters.
Women sit on a float as a bagpiper walks past them before the Vaisakhi parade. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The day began with speeches at the Khalsa Diwan Temple on Ross Street at 9 a.m. PT, followed by the parade from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. PT.

Organizers estimated around 300,000 people attended last year's Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver — the first after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Men wearing turbans and carrying colourful flags walk in a parade on a sunny day.
Parade leaders gather in front of the main float before the Vaisakhi parade. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The parade traveled through the historic Punjabi Market district in South Vancouver, closing roads and rerouting buses in the area for a good part of the day.  

A larger Vaisakhi parade, one that has previously been called the biggest in the world, takes place in Surrey on April 20. 

With files from Michelle Gomez, Jason Peters and The Early Edition