AIII Diwali has something special each year: Yellina
Victoria’s longest running Diwali fair will kick off at 11.30 am on 19 October at Sandown Race Course, Sandown Park, and finish with a bang around 9 pm.AIII Diwali at Sandown Racecourse is well over a decade old and still going strong, with more and more people coming to celebrate the festival of lights each year.
The Indian Sun spoke to festival organiser Hari Yellina to find out how one of Melbourne’s oldest Diwali festivals—organised by Australian Indian Innovation (AIII)—has stayed at the top of the game.
“AIII has adapted over the years and it has grown from only entertainment, to having something special planned each year. We have product launches, cooking shows, talent competitions, showcasing Indian culture with stalls,” Yellina said.
And they don’t scrimp on the main event.
“When we say we are celebrating festival of lights, we do deliver that. The grand fireworks at the venue is one of our main attractions,” Yellina said.
AIII Diwali has a strong focus on promoting local artists, performers and other talents from the Indian community in Victoria.
Yellina said the organisers also sometimes arrange for famous overseas artists to appear at the festival, “just to encourage the youth of Victoria to aspire to be as talented as them”.
Past years have seen stars Mika Singh, Sikandar Khan, Ghulam Abbas Khan, Irfan and Ali Khan, Shreya More, Abhinada Sarkar, and many more visit Sandown, southeast of the CBD.
This year visitors will see renowned Indian chef Harpal Singh getting the spices bubbling in a special cooking demonstration, while launching a new Indian food brand Sabrini and signing autographs.
Australian Indian Innovation was founded in 2002 by a group of Melburnian Indians as a secular, non-political organisation to promote Indian culture and showcase art, tradition and food through festivals and other events. The group threw its first Diwali celebration in 2002 at Sandown Racecourse and has been holding them there each year since.
“At that time, it was a bold idea as the numbers were small but the reception they received from the community was outstanding. In 2002 they had 2000 people attend the event. Now, the number has grown to 15,000 or more,” said Yellina.
Yellina joined AIII after stumbling across the Diwali festival at Sandown shortly after he moved to Victoria. He said he was blown away by the variety of Indian cuisines, stalls and amazing local talent on display. “Most of the Diwali events held back then would normally cover dances and dinners only,” he said.
This year, visitors will also get to see the ‘Melbourne Idols’ performing on stage in the live Western Union Talent Show, as well as other live music, singing and dance performances, a fashion show, a huge variety of food and other stalls, children’s rides and a Cricket Australia camp.
The celebrations kick off at 11.30 am on 19 October at Sandown Race Course, Sandown Park, and finish with a bang around 9 pm.