One of Vancouver’s most interesting festivals is the East Indian Vaisakhi Parade which celebrates the Punjabi New Year and takes place in April each year.
Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade
In 2018 the parade took place on Saturday, April 14th, which was the first day of the Vaisakhi season this year.
Vancouver’s Vaisakhi parade occurs on the Saturday before or after April 13th each year. It takes place from about 10 am to 4 pm or so, starting at the Ross Street Temple at 8000 Ross Street just off Marine Drive in South Vancouver.
It’s an impressive event with hundreds of thousands of people attending!
During Vancouver’s Vaisakhi festivities there are more turbans and women in beautiful East Indian clothing on Main Street and 49th Avenue than in the entire Punjabi region of India and eastern Pakistan.
Actually, that’s an exaggeration, obviously, but as many as 300,000 people turn out in good years, making it Vancouver’s largest single-day festival of any kind.
Each year much of Main Street from Marine Drive up to 49th is packed full of people, as is much of 49th Avenue for many blocks. It’s truly a sight to see!
Vaisakhi Parade Route
The annual East Indian parade starts at the Sikh temple at 8000 Ross Street and then makes its way along Marine Drive before turning up Main Street and then along 49th Avenue before making its way back to the temple.
The parade itself isn’t large with lots of floats and other entries, but with the crowds on the streets and no reason to go fast, the entire procession takes most of the day.
The Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade is truly one of Vancouver’s most impressive festivals, and definitely one of its largest. There is East Indian music, thousands of people in beautiful and colourful traditional clothing, a festive atmosphere and, interestingly, free food. Yes, there is free food everywhere!
East Indian Festival Treats
Part of the Sikh and Punjabi tradition at Vaisakhi is for businesses and even residents of an area to give out free food. It’s kind of like in North America when people give away free candy at Halloween.
Instead of just pieces of candy, however, at the Vaisakhi event it’s whole curry lunches, ice cream, chips, soft drinks and other tasty stuff that’s given away for free at stands along the streets of the parade.
If you’ve never been to a Vaisakhi Parade, you should go. Mark your calendar, or check out the Vaisakhi Parade in Surrey which always takes place one week later.
Vaisakhi Parade Cherry Blossoms
Also during the month of April is the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. Interestingly, one of the best places in the Lower Mainland to see cherry blossoms some years is at the Vaisakhi Parade along the side streets at Punjabi Market near Main Street and 49th Avenue.
2015 was an amazing year for the blossoms at Vaisakhi Parade time. In 2016 the timing wasn’t as perfect. In 2017 the timing was again fairly good and in 2018 it was also okay, although still slightly on the early side.
Click Vaisakhi Cherry Blossoms to see more parade photos showcasing Vancouver’s best pink blossoming cherry trees.
Vaisakhi Festival Video
For a visual overview of the Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival, to give you an idea of what to expect, check out the following video.
As you’ll see, thousands of people turn out to enjoy the music, parade floats, food and cultural presentations. Vancouver residents from the East Indian community also dress up in all kinds of beautiful and colourful clothing. It’s a feast for the eyes, ears, taste buds and all the senses!
For information about the Lower Mainland’s other Vaisakhi Parade – the one that takes place a week later, on April 21 in 2018 – click Surrey Vaisakhi Festival.
Other major events in the Lower Mainland in April most years include the following:
- Easter (although in some years it occurs in March)
- Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival
- Earth Day and Party for the Planet
- Tulips of the Valley (in Chilliwack) and the Abbotsford Tulip Festival
- Vancouver Sun Run
Other articles and events listings that may be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver History & Culture
- Free Events in April
- Vancouver’s April Calendar of Events
- Festivals & Events Calendar