Hundreds attend United Punjabis of America Vaisakhi Mela in Illinois

Organizers and participants in the Vaisakhi Mela, April 15, 2023, at Mall of India in Naperville, Illinois, hosted by United Punjabis of America. Photo: courtesy UPA

It was an exciting afternoon at the Mall of India in Naperville, Ill., April 15, 2023, where United Punjabis of America (UPA), a non-profit community organization, hosted a Vaisakhi Mela. More than 700 people enjoyed the festive celebration, with 20 busy booths selling colorful clothing and jewelry, information booths for various services, and stalls offering delicious foods.

A Dhol Tasha performance by Maharashtra Mandal jumpstarted the cultural program as emcees, Neha Sobti and Ramesh Malhan welcomed everyone and invited the dignitaries to the stage for the lamp-lighting ceremony.

Lamp lighting ceremony at the April 15, 2023, Vaisakhi Mela at Mall of India, Naperville, hosted by United Punjabis of America. From left, Louisa Keefe (Susana Mendoza’s Rep.), Ranjit Singh (Consul, Indian Consulate in Chicago), Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Congressman William Foster, Scott Wehrli, Naperville Mayor-Elect, and Mohamad Clayton (Mayor Richard Irving’s Office). Photo: courtesy United Punjabis of America

Democratic Congressmen Bill Foster and  Raja Krishnamoorthi offered Vaisakhi greetings and congratulated UPA for hosting the event.

Other dignitaries present included Indian Consulate of Chicago representative Ranjit Singh, Illinois State Senator Laura Ellman, Naperville Mayor Elect Scott Wehrli, Aurora Alderwoman Shweta Baid, and representatives of Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.

Every year, UPA recognizes community members for their outstanding entrepreneurial or technical achievements and community services.

United Punjabis of America awardees recognized at the April 15, 2023, Vaisakhi Mela at Mall of India, Naperville, Ill. From left, Dr. Anuja Gupta, Sudhir Dureja, Ratna Kapur, Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, Neha Sobti. Photo: UPA

This year five of these awards were conferred. Sudhir Dureja was recognized as a Distinguished Punjabi for Technical Achievements & Community Service; Dr. Anuja Gupta as a Distinguished Entrepreneur & Community Service Leader; Dr. Vijay Prabhakar as a Distinguished Community Service Leader; Ratna Kapur as a Distinguished Punjabi for Community Service Leadership; and Neha Sobti as a Distinguished Young Punjabi for Community Service.

Dharam Punwani, president of UPA, congratulated the awardees and thanked them for their dedication to service.

One of the dance groups at the Vaisakhi Mela April 15, 2023, held at Mall of India, Naperville, Ill., hosted by United Punjabis of America. Photo: UPA

The much- anticipated dance performances followed, with colorful giddhas and  Bollywood-style medleys performed by multiple dance groups from Chicagoland area. The judges Sarita Sood, Kanan Dhingra, Shammi Wahi, and Ratna Kapur had the difficult job of selecting the winners.

Placing first was Neha Sobti Dance Academy; second place went to Rhythms and Grace Dance Studio by Shalini Dixit; and the third place trophy went to “Dance Academy by Anu Bhattacharya.

“I am so grateful to everyone who participated in these performances and made Vaisakhi Mela such a success,” said Rosey Bhasin, a UPA Board member.

In his vote of thanks, UPA Secretary Ashwani Mahajan, , offered thanks to the entire UPA Board and Executive Committee along with a special word of thanks to Girish Kapur and Atul Wahi for working with the Mall of India team on the logistics and the set up for the entire event.

“What a lovely Mela UPA has organized,” gushed a guest as she collected her shopping bags. “I am so glad our friends and we decided to come. We’ve all enjoyed the shopping and watching these excellent performances.” The celebrations continued well after 5 PM as the traffic at various booths continued to enjoy brisk business.

“Vaisakhi is such a beloved festival for us, and I am so proud that UPA continues this tradition of hosting a Mela to bring people together in friendship and gratitude for the bounty this festival blesses us with,” acknowledged Pratibha Jairath, former Chairwoman of the Board of UPA.

Entry to the UPA Vaisakhi mela was free. It was made possible by the support of numerous sponsors including International Fresh Market (Event Level), Anil Loomba, Home Mortgage Solutions Inc.(Platinum Level), Amrit Mittal, New York Life (Gold Level), Four Silver Level sponsorships of Rahul Wahi, LLT Group; Sunil Shah, New York Life; Dr. Bhuinder Beri, Crossroad Animal Hospital; Heartland Bank, and eight Bronze level sponsorships of Iroquois Dental, Moin Hauqe Group, Verandah Senior Living, State Bank of India, Blue Sky Innovations, Orochem, Sajmil Builders, and Om Signs and Graphics.



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