One of Vancouver’s most interesting festivals is the East Indian Vaisakhi Parade. It celebrates the Punjabi New Year and takes place in April most years.
CANCELLED IN 2020 AND 2021
The Vancouver event didn’t happen last year due to COVID-19. It has been cancelled again in 2021. Had it not been for the pandemic, the parade would have taken place on Saturday, April 24th, in 2021. For details about what normally happens, continue reading.
In normal years, the Surrey Vaisakhi Festival takes place a week later than the Vancouver festivities. For details about the later event click Surrey Vaisakhi Celebrations. For information about the history and meaning behind the events, see our other article about Lower Mainland Vaisakhi Festival Parades
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Click any of the above links to jump to a specific subject, or continue reading to learn all about the City of Vancouver’s Vaisakhi celebrations.
Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade
The parade would have taken place on Saturday, April 18th, in 2020, and on Saturday, April 24th, in 2021. Neither event book place because of the coronavirus.
Vancouver’s Vaisakhi parade occurs on the Saturday before or after April 13th most years. 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 when possible!
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. That being said, 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 full of people, as is much of 49th Avenue for many blocks. It’s truly a sight to see!
Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade Route
In 2020 the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade was supposed to have had a slightly different route compared to previous years. It was going to start and finish at the same place though, at the Khalsa Diwan Temple, at 8000 Ross Street.
Instead of leaving the temple grounds and going along Marine Drive for a bit at the start, the procession was supposed to head north along Ross Street right away. It was then going to turn west on 57th Avenue, and then north on Main Street. From there, as it has in the past, it was supposed to go east along 49th Avenue and then south on Fraser Street. It was then planned to go east back along 57th Avenue, south on Ross Street and then finally back to the temple. The route for 2022 is to be confirmed.
The parade itself isn’t large with lots of floats and other entries. With the crowds on the streets and no reason to go fast, however, 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 and thousands of people in beautiful and colourful traditional clothing. There is also 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 takes place one week later most years.
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. The timing was again fairly good in 2017, and in 2018 it was also okay, although still slightly on the early side. In 2019, rainy weather had been ideal for the cherry blossoms – they were at their peak around the third week of April.
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 in normal years. 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!
To learn about the organizations behind the Vancouver event see the Khalsa Diwan Society‘s website.
For information about the Lower Mainland’s other Vaisakhi Parade click Surrey Vaisakhi Festival.
To learn more about the meaning and history behind Vaisakhi, check out our article titled Lower Mainland Vaisakhi Festival Parades.
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