VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — For the first time in several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, India Fest is returning to the Tidewater region.
And it's a big milestone for the celebration -- the gathering, which is hosted by the Asian Indians of Hampton Roads (AIH), is in its 25th year.
AIH itself began in 1979, when several Indian families immigrated to the Tidewater area and wanted to establish a community.
Then, Indiafest began in 1994. Bhrani Patel, the president of AIH, said it was initially held on the campus of Old Dominion University.
Over the years, what had been a gathering of 150 families quickly grew.
The last time the event was held in 2019, roughly 13,000 people came together to celebrate the rich culture and traditions of India.
With more than 24 types of food, authentic clothing and jewelry vendors, and seven native languages represented, the day of celebration is a reminder of the power of diversity and remembering your roots.
"I think it's especially very important for the younger generation to come out to festivals like this and just see, look and explore," Patel said. "At least look and see that there are different cultures out there in the world."
India Fest is open to the whole community, but many families who volunteer and organize are part of a multi-generational effort to share their roots.
"Lots and lots of effort goes in," Patel said. "We have 130 performers under the age of 12, and probably another 70 or 80 that are 12 and older."
Throughout the day, these artists will be taking part in different dances that are native to different regions of India, with colorful costumes and vibrant music.
Grandparents, parents and children will celebrate and pass this tradition down.
"It is important for these kids to see their heritage and know it and be proud of it," Patel said.
While traveling to India would be an unforgettable experience, the celebration brings an authentic taste of it closer to home without having to buy a plane ticket.
Bollywood celebrity Nargis Fakhri will also be in attendance.
India Fest is free and open to the public. It will be held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10.