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Vancouver Vaisakhi Celebrations

Vancouver Vaisakhi Festival

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 Crowds
Parade Crowds on 49th Avenue

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.

Sikh Motorcyclists in Vaisakhi Parade
Sikh Motorcycle Club in Vaisakhi Parade

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

Sikh Gentleman at ParadePart 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.

Side Street Blossoms at Vaisakhi
A side street with blossoms near Punjabi Market

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!

Other Information

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:

Other articles and events listings that may be of interest include the following: