India Fest attracts community despite heat

Ryan Ogle, Washburn Review

On Saturday, Topekans stepped out into sweltering temperatures and packed the Gage Park Shelter House to celebrate the culture and flavor of India at the India Fest Topeka 2014.

An annual event organized by the India Association of Topeka, India Fest not only introduces Indian culture and cuisine to area residents, but also gives back to the community.

Each year, festival organizers partner with a local charity to receive proceeds from the fair. Those honors went to TARC – a local support provider for adults and children with disabilities – this year.

“We worked with them for a couple of months,” said Sherry Lundry, Development Director at TARC. “The proceeds from India Festival come back to TARC to benefit the programs that we provide and folks we support. Those dollars will be put to very good use.”

The festival featured an array of Indian costumes, jewelry and, most importantly, cuisine. Attendees lined up by the dozens to sample the many munchies, some hot, all handmade, available.

Washburn business student Anantharaman Gurumurthy spent his day over a hot griddle preparing dosa – a dish made from rice and black lentil batter that he described as pancake-like in appearance. Served with potatoes and coconut sauce, the dosa was one of many delicacies that had folks coming back for more.

Local Indian restaurants Monsoon Grill and Globe Indian Cuisine were both on hand at the event, serving popular items from their menus. While both eateries ran out of food well before the fest ended, the readily available supply of chicken curry, poori and various desserts ensured that no one went home hungry.

Outside, those lucky enough to find a shady spot sat and ate while dancers performed to a soundtrack of traditional Indian folk music. A bounce house and face-painting booth proved tempting enough to brave the heat for many of the younger fest-goers. Judging from the amount of freshly marked arms and hands, the mehndi (henna) artist saw plenty of business as well.

This year’s fest, according to Lundry, saw more traffic than previous years. And it’s no secret what the biggest draw was.

“The food,” said Sarah Flores, Topeka. “The food is freaking awesome.”