The Surrey Vaisakhi Parade celebrates the Punjabi New Year in mid-April every year and attracts up to 300,000 people from across the Metro Vancouver region.
In 2020 the Surrey event, which is officially called “Nagar Kirtan”, takes place on Saturday, April 25th. A record half a million people are estimated to attend (helped in part by the beautiful weather)!
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Surrey Parade and Festival
Also known as the Surrey Khalsa Day Parade, the Surrey Vaisakhi Parade is in fact one of the largest of its kind in the world – outside the Punjab – and a must-see experience for Vancouverites.
The Surrey Vaisakhi Festival is certainly not an event just for people of East Indian and Sikh backgrounds – it’s an amazing event for everyone!
Surrey Vaisakhi Parade Details
The Surrey Vaisakhi Parade is an annual event around the third week of April each year. It’s a Sikh cultural celebration and one of the Lower Mainland’s largest festival events.
The parade route begins and finishes at 12885 85th Avenue, at Surrey’s Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Temple.
From the temple the procession heads south along 128th Street, then west at the BC Hydro (Newton) Railway line and then along 82nd Avenue. From there it heads south down 124th Street, west via 75th and 76th Avenues, and then back up 128th Street to the Temple.
The parade starts at about 9:00 or 9:30 am, with the procession finishing back at the Temple by around 4:00 pm or so.
A wonderful feature of the Vaisakhi Festival is the fact that businesses and homeowners along the route offer parade participants and the crowd in general all kinds of free food! Everything from ice cream to pizza to bags of chips to full plates of curry is given out, all for free!
Vaisakhi Parade Participants
The Surrey Vaisakhi Festival only has about 20 organizations with entries in the parade. The 20 parade entries, however, include over 2500 participants. The procession also goes slowly, and the route is a fair distance, which explains why the parade lasts pretty much all day.
Typical participants in the Surrey Vaisakhi Parade include the following:
- A 60-member Sikh marching band playing classic instruments from the Punjab.
- The Canadian Armed Forces
- The Parshaad (Sikh Food Offering) where volunteers from the Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Temple distribute sweets to people on the street.
- Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which is a float that carries holy Sikh scriptures.
- The Sikh Motorcycle Club
Other parade entries are various organizations and school groups singing hymns, dancing and showcasing other elements of Sikh and Punjabi culture.
2019 Parade Participants
Some of the organizations participating in the parade in 2019 included the following (2020 will likely be similar):
- The Sikh Riders – a Lower Mainland-based motorcycle club. (Note: As you’ll notice, in British Columbia it’s legal for people of the Sikh religion to ride motorbikes while wearing a turban instead of a helmet.)
- Gatka Demonstration – featuring children demonstrating this traditional form of Sikh martial arts.
- Parshaad – a float from the Gurdwara Dasmesh Darbar Temple offering traditional Sikh foods to people along the parade route.
- CHANNEL Punjabi – the local East Indian television station will be broadcasting from within the parade.
- Guru Granth Sahib – this is the main and culturally most significant float in the procession. It carries the Guru Granth Sahib, the 11th Guru of the Sikhs, which are holy scripture of the Sikh religion.
- Har Jus Kirtan – a parade entry with over a hundred members singing traditional hymns.
- Kirtan Float – another float with people performing traditional Sikh hymns.
- Khalsa School – 500 students from the K-12 private Sikh school will perform traditional hymns and dances during the parade.
- Sikh Army Float – a parade entry honoring the contributions of the Sikh community in military service both in Canada and around the world.
- Khalsa Float – a parade entry honoring the Khalsa and its mission to “uplift humanity, engage in the provision of equality and human rights, and to ensure a world free from discrimination.”
- Mamta Foundation – a charitable organization that does projects around the world benefiting children including, presently, the construction of orphanage facilities in India’s Jalandhar City.
- Sikh Human Rights Float – a float by a group that advocates for equality and basic human rights. Their parade entry features a different era of Sikh history each year.
- TransLink – the public bus service will have a couple of buses within the parade procession that older folk are welcome to get on and ride (so they can get from different points along the route without having to walk the whole way).
- Surrey Food Bank – the non-profit will be collecting non-perishable food item donations along the way.
- Sikh Motorcycle Club – a second Lower Mainland-based bike club.
Surrey Vaisakhi Festival Carnival
The parade on the Saturday is the main event which attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Surrey during the Vaisakhi holiday season. In addition to the parade, however, most years, there is also a multi-day carnival element.
Surrey’s Dashmesh Gurdwara Vaisakhi Festival carnival usually runs for the week and a half leading up to the weekend of the parade. It starts on the Thursday nine days before the parade and finishes ten days later on the Sunday.
In 2019 the carnival ran from April 11th until the 22nd. See below for exact times and details. 2020 details are to be confirmed.
During the 11-day Vaisakhi celebrations there is usually a carnival outside the Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Temple which is the starting point of the Saturday parade and located at 12885 85th Avenue. The carnival is run by Shooting Star Amusements and includes rides and a midway.
Vaisakhi Carnival Details
Below are details about the carnival and amusement rides at the Surrey Vaisakhi Festival in 2019. (Note: Times, dates and other details are subject to change.)
The carnival takes place each year beside the Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar Temple which is located at 12885 85th Avenue in Surrey.
In 2019 the midway and amusement rides ran from Thursday, April 11th, until Monday, April 22nd (so finishing on the Easter Weekend this year). Weather permitting, the attraction was open every day during that time except for Monday, April 15th (when it’s closed).
Usually on the first day of the carnival, there is a “Sneak a Peak Great Deal Day.” If the weather is good and they have everything set up in time, the rides will open for business at around 4:00 pm (and likely at discounted prices). If the weather doesn’t cooperate, however, opening day will be on the Friday instead (at regular full prices).
Carnival Hours and Dates
Below are the hours of operation for the amusement rides and midway in 2019. 2020 will likely be comparable. Closing time each day depends on the weather and attendance levels. If it’s sunny and the place is packed, it’ll stay open until late. If it’s raining or few people are there, it’ll close much earlier.
- Thursday April 11th – Open at 4:00 pm (tentatively)
- Friday April 12th – Open at 4:00 pm
- Saturday April 13th – Open at noon
- Sunday April 14th – Open at noon
- Monday April 15th – Closed for the day
- Tuesday April 16th – Open at 4:00 pm
- Wednesday April 17th – Open at 4:00 pm
- Thursday April 18th – Open at 4:00 pm
- Friday April 19th – Open at noon (because it’s Good Friday)
- Saturday April 20th – Open at noon
- Sunday April 21st – Open at noon
- Monday April 22nd – Open at noon (because its Easter Monday)
Carnival Admission Prices
In 2019 tickets cost $3.50 per ride or $25.00 for an all-day wristband (which are great deals and about the same prices as the year before). 2020 prices are to be confirmed.
Types of Amusement Rides
Typical rides at the carnival include the Tilt-A-Whirl, Kreepy Kastle (i.e., haunted house), The Sizzler, The Zipper, Zero Gravity, The Lightning Bolt, Berry-Go-Round and Elephants & Jets. There is also usually a Ferris wheel and bumper cars.
Surrey Vaisakhi Festival Videos
For an idea of what the Surrey Vaisakhi Festival looks like, see the video below.
For a photo slideshow video of the event, which includes different scenes from the video above, click Surrey Vaisakhi Parade Video.
To get an idea about how the Surrey festival compares with Vancouver’s version of the same event, which takes place one week earlier, click Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade Video.
Tips and Advice
Below are some tips to help you make the most out of your Surrey Vaisakhi experience.
TIP #1: Take public transit to the event, or pack your bikes on your car, park far away, and then cycle to the parade. Parking close by is nearly impossible.
TIP #2: If you have small children in a stroller, don’t expect to get around easily along the parade route. There will be tens if not hundreds of thousands of people jam packed in the main streets.
TIP #3: The parade attracts hundreds of thousands of people and the streets get packed. Stay close to your children so they don’t get lost in the crowd, and prearrange a meeting spot in case you do.
TIP #4: Don’t worry about packing a lunch, unless you don’t like curry or bags of chips. A wonderful tradition of the festival is that businesses and even residents in the area provide free snacks and food!
TIP #5: “Dhanwad” is the word for “thank you” in Punjabi in case you want to use it after receiving free food from people on the street.
TIP #6: Weather permitting, the amusement rides at the carnival start up at 4:00 pm on the first day. Assuming they do begin running then, chances are pretty good that ride tickets that day will be offered at a discount (so it can be a good time to go).
TIP #7: Carnival rides at the Surrey Vaisakhi Festival are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. The no-refund policy also applies in cases of extreme weather and early closure. Consequently, if it looks like a serious storm is on its way, be warned!
TIP #8: Shooting Stars Amusements’ ride tickets never expire – or at least that has been the case in the past. Consequently, if you do find you have extra (non-wristband) tickets left over, keep them for next year or some other future event featuring Shooting Stars Amusements rides.
TIP #9: The carnival rides are busiest on the weekends, on the parade day and on days when it’s not raining.
Vancouver also has a Vaisakhi Parade every year, taking place between the Ross Street Temple by Marine Drive and Punjabi Market at Main and 49th Avenue. The Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade takes place each year one week before the Surrey parade and also attracts a couple hundred thousand participants. In 2020 it’s on Saturday, April 18th.
Click Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade for photos and further information about the Vancouver event.
To learn more about Vaisakhi and its history, see our main article about Lower Mainland Vaisakhi Festival Parades. The article includes information about both the Vancouver and Surrey Vaisakhi events, but also more extensive details about the meaning of the event.
For lists of other events and things to do in the Lower Mainland, check out any of the following:
- Vancouver’s April Calendar
- Festivals & Events Calendar
- History and Culture in the Lower Mainland
- Free Things to do in April