Hastings-Sunrise: Punjabi fun part of special PNE day

Workshops and lessons planned

Dont know how to dance bhangra no problem.

The performers taking to the stage as part of the first-ever South Asian Community Day at the Pacific National Exhibition later this month will ensure everyone gets a lesson in the colourful folk dance.

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BJ Gill, who manages E3 Elite Events and Entertainment with business partners Rik Bharmi and Sunny Kainth, said bhangra workshops and impromptu lessons will be a big part of HYPE @ The PNE: Heres Your Punjabi Entertainment, taking place Aug. 31 from 1 to 6 p.m. on the Chevrolet Performance Stage.

"In the middle of a set the music will keep going but the performers will stop and get the crowd up and teach them how to dance bhangra," said Gill. "Its very interactive and a lot of fun."

Growing up Gill loved going to the PNE every summer, but it wasnt until years later he realized it might not have been as much fun for his parents.

"I always thought it was a really cool experience," said Gill. "But then I remembered my parents being really bored just standing around watching while I was having fun."

Gill said Bharmi and Kainth shared that experience growing up so when the three of them sat down to brainstorm about creating an event even their parents would enjoy, the PNE was the first venue that came to mind. E3 provides entertainment for weddings, corporate and private functions, parties, fundraisers and festivals. While Gill focuses strictly on management, Bharmi is a choreographer who works with bhangra dance teams and Kainth is a musician.

"The PNE is so popular with the South Asian community we thought why hasnt this been done before?" said Gill.

This summer fair-goers will enjoy local South Asian singers, dancers, musicians, DJs, comedians and a breakdance team. Gill calls it an introduction to Punjabi entertainment with a goal to attract not just the Indo-Canadian community but everyone attending the PNE.

"The audience might not be able to understand the words in some of the songs," said Gill. "But the music and the dancers will help them enjoy the performances."

PNE chief executive officer Michael McDaniel said the fair has a long history of offering diverse programming and entertainment.

"Weve had other ethnic days in the past," said McDaniel. "A lot of times we have different partners come forward who want to work with us and, as the result of the outreach we do, the fair is a little different each year."

McDaniel said hosting a South Asian community day is a great fit with the PNE because the culture is focused on family and community engagement. Among the many cultures showcased at the PNE in the past are Irish, Cuban, Thai, Polynesian and Korean.

"We offer a mosaic of different programs," said McDaniel.

He added with such a diverse crowd attending the fair each year, staff are trained to treat all visitors with respect.

"We tell them we get all walks of life attending the fair, including people with accessibility issues or who might be mentally challenged," said McDaniel. "With three-quarters of a million people attending each year it really is a representation of the greater community."

The Fair at the PNE runs from Aug. 17 to Sept. 2. For more information and a list of scheduled performances and special events, visit pne.ca.

sthomas@vancourier.com

twitter.com/sthomas10

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