The centennial ceremonies (Aug. 26-28) at the Gur Sikh Temple were celebrated by thousands from far and wide. The weather was beautiful and the hospitality of the Sikh community was first-class, making it an unforgettable moment in our nation's history.
I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the programs both on Friday and Saturday evening. This event touched citizens from all backgrounds, who came out to enjoy the colourful entertainment, socializing, local history and the endless amount of delicious food.
The Gur Sikh Temple is the oldest standing gurdwara in North America. The federal government declared it a national historical site in 2002, and thousands attended the event, including former prime minister Jean Chrétien.
On the Friday evening, I met many friends who I hadn't seen in years, coming together as part of a larger family. The lower parking lot of the heritage site was completely full with guests and community partners, who displayed their unconditional support for a special moment in our history. Throughout the night, I visited several booths and had endless numbers of memorable conversations under the setting sun. The main stage hosted performances from Dasmesh Punjabi School, Mamba Marital Arts Academy and a turban-tying contest. Many, who dedicated a lifetime of service to the temple, were also presented and honoured with plaques. There were fun activities such as hand painting, Abbotsford Heat hockey activities or a special tour of the historic building. Guests were also given a glossy 300page souvenir booklet featuring many articles on the service and achievements of the community over the past century. I encourage all of you to have a look at this book of history.
After the first day of celebrations, I walked away with such a proud inner feeling. This kind of love and friendship is something I will never forget.
The Saturday night celebrations were as equally well-attended, honouring the community's pioneer families throughout most of the evening.
Unfortunately, on the last day of celebrations (Sunday), I was a bit busy and couldn't attend the parade and gathering at Rotary Stadium. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Christy Clark spoke earlier in the day offering their congratula-tions. According to organizers, this day saw the crowd swell to 25,000 people.
Kris Foulds, collections manager of The Reach Gallery Museum said, "As I participated in the Gur Sikh Temple centennial that honored the contributions of community pioneers, both Sikh and non-Sikh, I couldn't help but think that this is what our pioneers strove to achieve; a community that values and celebrates the cultural heritage of its citizens and recognizes that Abbotsford's cultural diversity is one of its greatest strengths."
"It has a huge significance to us," said Satwinder Bains, director of the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. "It is the cornerstone of our social life. It has more significance that just being a religious place."
We'll be talking about the centennial for a long time, until the next big celebration in 2111.
- Ken Herar is a freelance columnist. Reach him at: email@example.com.