Last updated: February 19. 2013 5:45PM - 302 Views

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WILKES-BARRE – Genetti's Hotel and Conference Center was filled with the colors and sounds of India on Friday night as area residents gathered to celebrate Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights.

The event, sponsored by the Indo American Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, hosted more than 300 people, most wearing traditional Indian apparel.

The Genetti's Grand Ballroom was lavishly decorated with candles, lights, and traditional decorations, including Rangoli, a decorative placement of candles meant as a sacred welcoming symbol for guests.

The spirit of the evening extended to young entertainers making last minute adjustments to costumes and makeup, as they prepared to share their talents with those in attendance.

Diwali is our biggest festival and a great way for family and friends to come together to share in traditional food, music and custom, said Cynthia Das, outgoing president of the association. I have been a part of it for a long time and I love it.

Das also emphasized the blending of Indian and American customs. She said the naming of the association as Indo American was intended to celebrate both the historic and contemporary. Although the menu included many traditional Indian foods, it also included pizza for the younger people.

Razia Shroff, Wilkes-Barre, incoming president of the association, likened the holiday to Christmas and New Year's celebrations. Shroff said the event, celebrated in the area since 1982, has a special place in the hearts of many of those who attend with their family each year.

Many said the dance presentations were a favorite part of the celebration. Young dancers dressed in brightly colored costumes, complete with glitter, performed three dances, reflecting both traditional and contemporary dance techniques.

I'm very excited to dance tonight, said Sonal Garg, 11, Shavertown. We've been practicing for almost two months.

A fashion show, presenting traditional Indian attire, further added a sense of tradition to the celebration. The show included 19 participants, representing fashions from eight Indian states.

The event also included a business meetings in which the association's officers for the upcoming year were named.

It is a pleasure to host such a positive fun event, said Lindsay Bezick, Genetti's social sales and catering manager. It emphasizes a spirit of culture and community.

This is our first year celebrating Diwali here at Genetti's and we love it, said Neela Patel, Shavertown. We look forward to next year and many more years to come.

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