White Rock Diwali festival in the works

WHITE ROCK – You’ve seen the White Rock pier lit up with hundreds of lanterns for the annual Moon Festival, but in all the years that people south of the Fraser have celebrated the Diwali festival of lights, White Rock has never seen it.

That’s what Moti Bali, a longtime White Rock resident and community activist, is aiming to change as he and an organizing committee bring Diwali to White Rock’s waterfront on Saturday, Oct. 18.

"This is the first time ever that this function is being held in White Rock," he said of bringing the traditional Hindu festival to the city, which has been celebrated for years in neighbouring Surrey.

"I do a lot of community work in White Rock and I saw last year the Moon Festival being held. I said, ‘Why can’t we have that for the other cultures on the waterfront?’" Along with his committee members Aditya Mohan, director of leisure services Eric Stepurah, Vivek Vasistha, Simi Visishta, South Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg, Tejaswita Mohan, MP Judy Higginbotham, artist Toshi Varma and Rama Bali, Bali wants to bring the festival mainly to the waterfront at White Rock near the Museum Archives.

The now-retired resident, who’s served as chairperson for B.C.’s Communities in Bloom, is also looking to get parking along White Rock’s East Beach sponsored so that participants won’t have to pay, as well as a free shuttle to operate between East Beach near the Washington Avenue Grill to the festivities. These activities are yet to be established, as the committee will be meeting at a later date.

The event will take place just before the civic election, providing a good forum for dignitaries and important political players to show up, Bali noted.

"The main aim is to get all the cultures together and to celebrate this festive occasion," he said. "There will be cultural activities, food vendors, something for the children, for the old, for every person of caste, creed and colour."

In Surrey, the 11th annual Diwali festival will run from Oct. 17 to 27. The Diwali opening party kicks off at Surrey’s Crown Palace Banquet Hall on Friday (Oct. 17), and the main event will be "Diwali Downtown" taking place on Oct. 18 with more than 3,500 people expected to attend.

City council also approved $7,000 in kind to support the festival at the Sept. 8 council meeting.

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