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Inaugural Downtown Akron South Asian Celebration Welcomes Casual Crowd to Cascade Plaza


Category: Downtown Akron Blog

On Sunday, April 28, 2024, Downtown Akron Partnership presented the inaugural Downtown Akron South Asian Celebration, a casual afternoon event that welcomed an estimated 300 people to Cascade Plaza to enjoy food, performances, activities, and vendors. The weather was warm and breezy, with just a bit of rain—ideal conditions for the Holi celebration that took place on part of the plaza.

As with all cultural events presented by DAP, the South Asian Celebration was planned by a committee of individuals with backgrounds in or connections to the community in question—in this case the South Asian community, primarily Sonal Jain, Kalanithi Kanapathy-Bagley, and Karuna Geletka. Abigail Ernst, who works with The University of Akron’s Zips Activity Board, also played an integral role in engaging university students with the festivities.

Beginning at noon, people of all ages began trickling onto Cascade Plaza. The air was full of music, played by a DJ from S & S Production and Entertainment who was set up next to a stage at the back of the plaza and accompanied by tabla player Mohit Parmar. Laxmi Roshini emceed for the afternoon, inviting event patrons to cluster around the stage to watch lively dance performances by groups of young community members and Cleveland Bollywood.

Saffron Patch, a much-loved restaurant located in Merriman Valley, served fragrant Indian cuisine, and Henry’s Creamery offered small-batch artisanal ice cream. Local vendors included Ethnic Heirlooms, Roma Attire & Jewels, LiRo Apparel, and Chamak Dhamak. Sonal Jain of Chamak Dhamak—and the event-planning committee—is also the artist behind the painting featured on the celebration’s posters, and she happily signed posters and talked about her art with all who approached.

Many small children celebrated with us and had a blast participating in free painting and paper-flower-making crafts offered by the Zips Activity Board, taking fun photos at the free photobooth, having their faces painted and balloon animals made for them, and of course, playing Holi.

Toward the front of Cascade Plaza, overlooking Main Street, baggies of Holi powder—or gulal—were available for eventgoers to throw on each other. Holi, also known as the “festival of colors” is one of the most significant festivals in India after Diwali. It has been celebrated for thousands of years on the Indian subcontinent, and today, people celebrate all over the world. The festivities often feature bonfires, singing, dancing, prayer, feasting, and throwing around colored powder. Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil, the love shared by Lord Krishna and Radha, and the arrival of spring.

People of all ages—especially the young children, though—enjoyed the Holi powder on Cascade Plaza.

We are grateful to everyone who spent the afternoon with us, and to everyone who made the South Asian Celebration possible: The City of Akron, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, and of course, our dedicated committee. We look forward to next year’s South Asian Celebration, scheduled for May 4, and to expanding the festivities in the future as we look to incorporate cultural traditions from many more countries in the region.

Photos by Emma Hampton

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