FREMONT -- Gray skies gave way to sunshine Sunday right before the Festival of India Parade, and it was just as festival chairman Romesh Japra predicted.
"We know the sun is going to come out right before the parade," he said. "The sun always shines on us. That has never been a problem."
The 18th annual festival was organized by the Federation of Indian Associations, and it is part of a two-day celebration of India's independence from British rule, which has traditionally been observed on Aug. 15 since 1947.
Leading the parade was world-renowned Dhol drum master Lal Singh Bhatti, who performed in one of the Winter Olympics feature events in Vancouver, British Columbia, earlier this year.
Bhatti, along with two of his students, set the festive atmosphere of the parade as they led the slow procession on a short loop from the corner of Capitol Avenue and Liberty Street, along Beacon Avenue and California Street, and past the grand stand at Walnut Avenue.
This year's parade featured 17 floats that represented different Indian states and 25 open cars, which held local officials and pageant winners. The grand marshal, actor Aftab Shivdasani, rode with Japra in an elaborately decorated horse-drawn carriage.
Chants of "bharat mata ki," which translates to "praise mother India," rang through the crowd as floats featuring traditional and religious images made their way along the route.
Parade entries such as the Jung Su Won
Residents of all ages were represented well in the thousands who filtered through the streets near City Hall, and attendees such as Neetu Agarwal, a Fremont resident who brought her 5-year-old son, saw the festival as a way to keep her American-born son in touch with her homeland.
"It is very important to show the children our culture," she said. "This is also the only time I can dress him in our traditional clothing."
The festival also included a "mala" or fair, where attendees were able to peruse more than 135 booths selling traditional Indian items and food in the City Hall parking lot, as well as take in a Bollywood style show with singer Arpita Mukerjee.
Japra said the mala attracted more than 20,000 visitors Saturday, a record for the festival, and he hopes the annual celebration continues growing.
"We want to make this an event, not just for decades, but for centuries to come," he said.