First time a charm: Inaugural India Day festival a success

The Alliance of Midwest India Association really knows how to throw a party. And if the turnout at this year’s first full-blown festival celebrating India’s independence in Naperville is any indication, there will be bigger parties to come.

Central Park in Naperville on Benton Avenue was buzzing with the sounds of dancing, foods sizzling, and visitors talking with vendors throughout the late morning and early afternoon as hundreds came through to share in the India Day festival.

Chairman of the Midwest Alliance Prem Lalvani appeared in a sharply tailored native suit and proclaimed the first festival nearly a perfect success.

“We are very pleased with the turnout and happy that the skies cleared up,” Lalvani said, noting that the early morning had been very overcast. “People have been telling me today they are surprised and did not think our first festival would go so well.”

The event featured authentic Indian food, dancing, crafts, family activities and more. Visitors said they came for a variety of reasons that ranged from looking for a family activity to wanting to learn more about the culture itself.

Carl Larson and his wife Ashlee of Naperville brought their two children along and took advantage of the fest to have lunch.

“The festival was a blast,” Ashlee said. “We wanted to see some of the dancing, but unfortunately, it’s nap time.”

Vivek Seshadri of Naperville also enjoyed an Indian lunch as he walked toward the north end of Central Park with a plate of food. Seshadri said he knew one of the organizers of the event and felt the initial festival, which replaced what had been a flag raising ceremony the past five years, was going well.

“A colleague of mine helped organize this and I think for the first year, the turnout has been good,” he said. “I think there are some people who didn’t make it out this time that will want to be here next year.”

Dan and Darcy Peloza of Elmhurst said they learned about the festival through a flyer Darcy had seen where she takes yoga classes and that she and her husband really enjoy Indian food.

“There’s a real depth of flavor and I like a lot of the spices,” Dan Peloza said. “I think a lot of people don’t know a lot about Indian food because they just aren’t willing to try something different. My wife and I will try anything.”

“We’ve been to India so we’ve had the authentic food there,” Darcy added. “We wanted to come out and enjoy the day and have lunch and so, here we are.”

Naperville Park District Board President Mike Reilly was among the Naperville officials visiting the festival Sunday. Reilly said the event “was a wonderful way to enjoy Naperville on a Sunday afternoon” as well as “do something with your neighbors.”

“I don’t know what I ate for lunch, but it was good and spicy, which is something I like,” Reilly said with a smile. “I think Naperville made a good move in appointing someone as an outreach person for the Indian-American community, just as we’ve done with some other cultures.”

Lalvani said the only snag impacting the event was a problem with the sound system that was discovered before dancers took the stage. That problem, however, was solved by Naperville’s own mayor, A. George Pradel.

“It’s true that the first time you do something, you always try to improve on it the next time, but our only problem today was the sound system,” Lalvani said. “Mayor Pradel way here, and when we told him about it, he got someone on the phone right away and they took care of it. The mayor has always been very supportive of our people that represent India’s culture.”

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