The crowd at last year’s India Day Parade on Hillside Avenue was as culturally and ethnically varied as the nation it celebrated, Hemant Shah, one of the parade’s organizers, said.
“It creates a good sense of unity and togetherness, and basically people did appreciate and did respond in a very positive way,” said Shah, a realtor with Laffey Real Estate in New Hyde Park and the secretary of the Floral Park-Bellerose Indian Merchants Association, which organizes the parade.
The group expects the crowd at the second annual parade on Aug. 12 to at least match the size of last year’s — about 3,000, Shah said.
The parade will travel a 1.2-mile route along Hillside Avenue from 263rd Street in Glen Oaks, Queens, to 236th Street in Queens Village.
The route will bring the crowd to a cultural festival at Padavan-Preller Fields in Queens featuring cultural vendors, food and activities for children, including rides and face-painting, Shah said.
The actresses Tanushtree Dutta and Mahima Chaudhry, both Bollywood celebrities, will serve as this year’s grand marshals. Shah said he hopes their presence will help boost attendance.
Nearly three dozen cultural organizations marched in the inaugural parade last August, Shah said. The diversity of the people who participated created “a feeling of pride” for the Indian community in New Hyde Park and Floral Park, he said.
Other events around the world celebrate India Day on or around Aug. 15, the anniversary of India gaining independence from Great Britain in 1947. The Federation of Indian Associations in New York City claims it has the world’s largest India Day Parade, set for Aug. 20 this year.
Indian people account for about 20.6 percent of the New Hyde Park area’s population, about 6 percent of Queens’ and about 3.5 percent of the Village of Floral Park’s, according to 2015 U.S. Census population estimates.
The Floral Park-Bellerose Indian Merchants Association started the local India Day Parade after its inception in 2015, Shah said.
The group was founded as a way to promote local Indian-owned businesses, Shah said. It has about 100 active members from an area stretching from Queens Village in the west to Garden City Park and Williston Park in the east, he said.
“We wanted to provide a platform to all the businesses,” Shah said. “There was no such organized way of doing it unless we did this. Now the merchants have an avenue to voice their concerns.”