The Shiamak Dance Team headlines the multicultural showcase that closes off Diwali in Vernon Festival Oct. 13. (Photo submitted)

The Shiamak Dance Team headlines the multicultural showcase that closes off Diwali in Vernon Festival Oct. 13. (Photo submitted)

First annual Diwali in Vernon kicks off after Thanksgiving

Festival begins Oct. 9

Janelle Escott

Special to The Morning Star

The Thanksgiving celebrations do not have to end come Tuesday morning, as the first annual Diwali in Vernon Festival kicks off right after the long weekend on Oct. 9.

Two non-profit organizations, Diwali in BC and the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre, have been hard at work curating a week-long multicultural celebration in Vernon. The festival will include Bollywood-style dance workshops, kids’ lantern-making activities, rangoli art displays, and a final showcase on the Performing Arts main stage on Oct. 13.

Though the event is new to Vernon, celebrating Diwali in Western Canada has been gaining traction for the past several years, thanks to Diwali in BC’s artistic director, Rohit Chokhani.

“I grew up with Diwali. It was an important part of my lifestyle,” says Chokhani. “Since moving to Canada, many south Asians including myself wanted a way to celebrate Diwali.”

Diwali is the celebration of light over dark and is celebrated every fall with friends and family gatherings, lights, bright colours, rangoli art, and even fireworks. Every south Asian may celebrate Diwali in a different fashion and for a different reason; however, it’s a universal theme, artistic expression and colourful artcrafts remain the common thread that defines Diwali.

“Think of it as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years’ all wrapped into one,” Chokhani laughs.

Related: Diwali festival to shine

Related: Diwali Fest seeks performers

After several years of creating Diwali celebrations in Vancouver, Chokhani and his team launched Diwali in BC in 2017, a multiculturally-inclusive initiative intended to showcase the artistic talents and diverse backgrounds of local artists and performers in celebration of the festival of light (Diwali) during the Indian New Year. In its’ first year, Diwali in BC received an overwhelmingly positive response and has expanded in 2018 to include three new cities in the province, including Vernon, Maple Ridge, and Nanaimo.

The Diwali in Vernon Festival is unique in that it has come together with the contributions of many different people of different backgrounds, all in an attempt to showcase local artistry and talent in a way that is fun, colourful, and most importantly, accessible.

“Don’t worry about understanding it completely,” says Chokhani, “and think of it as a variety show.”

Several pop-up performances around the city will feature Bollywood-style dances, classical Indian dance including local performers. The final showcase at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre will include Vernon Chidorikai Japanese Dancers and the Shiamak Vancouver Bollywood dance team. Preceding the show, guests are welcome to chai and samosas in the lobby and following the final performance, guests are invited to take part in an evening of community, friendship, and celebration with a ticketed buffet dinner at the Curry Pot downtown.

With the announcement that the first Diwali in Vernon Festival would take place in early October, the community has since come together to make the event a success already. The Vernon Community Arts Centre launched their Diwali-themed art exhibit on Sept. 28 and will showcase the art until Oct. 25. Downtown businesses will be decorating their window displays in celebration of the festival of light and Sareena Nikoli of Soul Studio will be hosting Bolly-X and yin yoga classes.

“In the world today there is a lot of divisive confusion, but Diwali does the opposite,” says Chokhani. “Diwali is about making more connections and deeper experiences across cultures.”

With free and ticketed events happening all over the city, the inaugural Diwali in Vernon Festival welcomes all ages and all backgrounds to participate in the festivities and celebrate the season of light, love, and giving thanks for family and friends. It brings people from different cultures, abilities and backgrounds together to share a cup of chai or have a conversation about a performance or an activity.

More Information about the week-long pop-up performances and workshops can be found on the TicketSeller website,


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.