A visiting elephant helped draw jumbo crowds to a successful inaugural Shopping Festival in Dandenong’s Little India on 24-25 April.
Foster Street was closed to traffic and enlivened with balloons, garlands and lights in a bid to give the precinct a post-Covid lockdown boost, Little India Traders vice-president Steve Khan said.
“The tireless hard work of the committee members paid off as the overall turnout was more than expected in thousands.”
The main attraction was Esha the Elephant, as well as dancing in the street to a DJ and live Dhol drumming beats into the night.
The street stalls offered garments, bangles, shoes, food, gaming machines, toys, face painting and henna tattoos – some discounted up to 80 per cent.
“Some traders could not cope with influx of shoppers fighting to get a bargain,” Mr Khan said.
Among the distinguished guests were Indian High Commissioner Raj Kumar and Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams.
Ms Williams, with leaders of Indian community associations, cut a cake celebrating 30 years for the Little India precinct.
Mr Khan said traders were planning a “bigger” festival of lights for Diwali in October.
The festivities were offset by sombre hearts for the unfolding Covid tragedy in India, with daily infections topping 300,000. The death toll was growing by more than 3000 a day.
“We could feel it during our event. It’s our families who are suffering in India.
“There is no family that is not affected.
“The only thing we can do is pray to the Almighty to be merciful.”
Mr Khan said people in India had suffered from a “carefree” attitude towards abiding with Covid rules. Without a welfare safety net, households living hand-to-mouth could not afford to lockdown and not go to work, he said.
“It’s very scary.”