Asian Indians represent one of Charlotte’s fastest-growing ethnic communities. Since 2010, the population has doubled to more than 20,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This weekend, Indian heritage and customs will be celebrated in uptown during the 24th annual Festival of India.
Food and souvenir vendors will line North Tryon Street, with performance stages and an expected crowd of 25,000 people during the two-day event. Inside the Blumenthal Arts Center, festival goers can see art exhibits, demonstrations and continuous performances on stage. And according to Toni Sawhney, vice president of the India Association of Charlotte, there's a new attraction this year.
“We have a great exhibition on medicinal uses of spices," Sawhney said, "And you will see different spices like turmeric, saffron, cloves and you will see small plants that have been exported to this country so we can see the plants where all these herbs come from."
As the festival has grown over the years, organizers have not been able to attract large, diverse crowds for the event. Most people attending the festival in past years have been of Indian heritage. Sawhney said they have been working to attract new people to the festival, and hope to see a change this year.
“We feel more and more people are embracing this culture and want to come out and bring families out which was not the same 10 years ago — Even though this is the 24th festival," Sawhney said. "But for last five or six years we’re seeing the change and I think that’s coming because of so much diversity in Charlotte now."
Sawhney said they have also added food trucks for the first time this year, in an effort to attract a more diverse crowd. And she said, rain or shine, the festival will go on.