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You'll find lots of free food at both Vancouver Vaisakhi Day parades

To celebrate Vaisakhi, tens of thousands flock to the streets for a parade and community gathering that is perhaps best known for its free food.
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 B.C. Premier John Horgan attends the 2017 Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade (B.C. Premier John Horgan attends the 2017 Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade (BC NDP/Flickr)

The annual Vaisakhi Festival is a special time to Sikhs and Punjabi all over the world, and it's celebrated in vibrant style right here with two prominent festivals and parades in Vancouver and Surrey.

While Vaisakhi "has become a holy day to mark the birth of the Khalsa fraternity," according to Vancouver's Khasla Diwan Society, the parade organizers, it is predominantly a harvest festival.

Thousands flock to the streets for a parade and community gathering that is perhaps best known for its free food.

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Food is distributed during Vaisakhi as a way to show thanks for the abundance of the harvest and to share with others in the community. You'll find all sorts of food being handed out in the festival and parade zones from local businesses and residents, from pizza and potato chips to more traditional fare, including hand-held eats like samosa and pakoras or sweet treats.

Much of the food is hand-made by volunteers, though, and is doled out by the generous plateful. It's a great time to get a taste of the community.

British Columbia is home to strong Sikh and Punjab communities--among the largest in the country--and we can count our regional Vaisakhi celebrations as some of the biggest in the world outside of India.

Vancouver's Vaisakhi Festival and Parade will take place on Saturday, April 14 from 11 am to 5 pm, starting at the KDS Ross Sikh Temple (8000 Ross Street). It is followed a week later by Surrey's Vaisakhi Parade on Saturday, April 21 from 9:30 am to 4 pm, starting at Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar Temple (12885-85 Avenue, Surrey).

Plan for street closures and limited parking in both these areas on festival and parade day.