Shally Brar is trying to provide as many opportunities as possible for her 4-year-old, American-born son Jivaj to experience his family's Sikh cultural heritage.
On Saturday, Brar, of Berkeley, continued that effort by attending the one-day Punjabi Heritage Festival with Jivaj and thousands of others at the Solano County Fairgrounds.
"I bring my son, who's four years old and born and raised here (because) he would never know about this," Brar said, gesturing from her seat on the grass at the outdoor event. "We can dress up in our own cultural dress - these festivals help us to celebrate."
Punjabi refers to both a region of India and Pakistan (Punjab) and the major language spoken there.
Brar said she has typically gone to Punjabi festivals in Yolo County, and this was the first time she had been drawn to the Punjabi-American Cultural Association event for Solano and Napa counties. Her incentive was a chance to see her favorite musician, Manmohan Waris, perform, she said.
She also said there was plenty of free food available.
"It's our culture, we give," Brar said. "Everything is free at our festivals."
Carly Stewart and Karina Powell, both physician assistant students at the Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, were volunteering at one of the festival's educational booths.
Stewart said she was impressed at the family-style atmosphere of the event and the way in which the Indian-Americans retained their heritage.
"We don't have big Irish gatherings,"
Stewart joked. "(The Punjabi have) much more of a social family group."
Suki Uppal, a member of the festival's planning committee, said the 5-year-old event started after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when Americans were often confusing Sikhs with Muslims, due to their similar cultural garb. Sikhism, Islam and Hinduism are the primary religions practiced in India.
"This is education for the coming generations," Uppal said. "Instead of forcing it on them, we are creating things that attract them."
As Uppal spoke, the line leading to the event's food stands nearly doubled, snaking around part of the fenced-off area while colorfully dressed Sikh performers sang on stage nearby and signaling the oncoming dinner hour.
The annual event, in its second year at the fairgrounds, was expected to draw upwards of four thousand visitors Saturday, Uppal said.