Thousands of Bangladeshis assembled in St. Mary’s Church parking lot on Union Avenue for the first “mela” or festival organized by Westside Voice, a community organization, to enjoy a Sunday filled with music and colors.
Women dressed in traditional Bangladeshi outfits, decorated shalwar kameez, and brightly colored sarees, walked into the event at the amazement of passing by drivers, who slowed down at the sight. One driver asked, if there was some sort of a movie being shot at the location, a bystander told him there wasn’t.
Very little but the colors could be absorbed by the senses due to the thunderous music in the background. Vendors at the event managed to peddle their wares: some sold freshly cooked ethnic food, some sold clothing and jewelry, and an ice-cream truck had a long line of patrons. A clothing vendor, whose racks were near-empty, when asked if he made a hefty profit, replied, while grinning, “I made alright”.
The event which started at 3pm today is supposed to run until 10pm. At four, when our reporter visited, there was scarcely any visitors. One man, Ruhul Amin, of Bloomfield, a visitor, was outside in the church’s shade, hiding from the scorching sun. Mr Amin informed us that people were not coming due to the heat.
Once inside the church fence, Joyed Rohim, one of the organizers of the event, corroborated Mr Amin, and said, “There will be more people at 8.” When our reporter returned to the scene sometime around 7pm, there was indeed a lot more people at the festival, about 10,000 people, according to another organizer, Khariuz Choudhury.
Of the large number there were children who came with their families; one youth, Ahsan Shafi, 13, said, “I came for the music.”
It was a family event for the budding Bangladeshi community whose number is near 30,000 in the county, according to Frank Feenan, a candidate for Passaic County Sheriff, who said out of that number, only one is employed at the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office. Mr Feenan might be courting the right community, for almost all of them vote; however, almost all of them are Democrats with a fondness for Bill Pascrell.
At about 8pm it began to rain a little, which did not deter the crowd, some went inside the church building others stayed outside, and the musicians continued with their noise.
Mr Choudhury, the president and founder of Westside Voice, says he plans to make the event an annual happening.