The intrinsic value of a culture can be understood only if it is experienced. And cultural festivals always welcomes us with a red carpet to feel and become a part of a culture.
Sikkim Red Panda Winter Festival is one such occasion that you should definitely know about. I got to know about it only while I was browsing for an assignment for my Event Management course in college. I felt extremely glad that I get to know about it, and it has an important place on my bucket list. The entire festival primarily focuses on showcasing the art and music of more than 21 tribal North East Indian tribal cultures through entertainment events and parades. And who doesn’t want to experience this joy to the fullest.
In this post, I am going to introduce everything about Sikkim Red Panda Festival so that you could realise how much of an exhilarating experience it is plus, I am also going to give you some insights on the execution of events like this. Lets get to it.
Sikkim Red Panda Winter Carnival Festival: A Cultural Treasure
Sikkim is one of the states in India which mainly depend on tourism for its economic growth. Yes, the state generates most of its income from Travel, Tourism and other related activities. It has various local and religious festivals that you could experience in every season. And Sikkim Red Panda Winter Carnival Festival is one of the most famous of all which attracts crowds from all around the world.
The festival was first launched in the year 2013 and successfully held till 2019, which involved a series of cultural, traditional, art, and contemporary entertainment. Because of the pandemic, the event was kept on hold during 2020, not sure if it’s conducted in 2021, but according to the Utsav website, the festival is back this December 2022. And it gives all the reasons to know more about it before booking your tickets to Sikkim.
The Concept Of Sikkim Winter Carnival Fest
The theme of the festival revolves around the cultural and traditional aspects of the state. Sikkim is a state with numerous ethnic tribal communities having distinct cultural and linguistic heritage to showcase. The initial concept of the festival during revolved solely around showcasing the beauty of the state’s cultural heritages so it was named as Sikkim Winter Festival. Later it added Red Panda as another element and changed the name to The Red Panda Winter Carnival to honour the state animal and also to spread awareness about the species which is on the verge of extinction.
Every year, the department of tourism and civil aviation, Sikkim Tourism Development and Corporation, Incredible India, and the Government of Sikkim come together to make this fest a success. Being the most significant festival of the state, the main concept of the event is to promote communal harmony among various indigenous communities in and around Sikkim to come forward and gather to celebrate their culture and life.
It’s one of the most awaited events among locals and tourists, tourist operators, musicians, artists, transportation services, restaurants, street shops, and hotels. Moreover, if you look closer, the festival also primarily aims to increase the tourism visitation in the offseason and to promote the state’s economy, cultures & cuisines.
The event usually takes place during the winter season, i.e. somewhere around December to January and the major site the festival takes place is in the state capital Gangtok. The festival was previously used to be celebrated only for 3 days whereas as it gained more popularity many activities were added and now celebrated for around 6 – 10 days. Sounds like a perfect way to spend an eventful vacation, isn’t it?
Co-ordination of Activities That Makes The Sikkim Festival A Massive Cultural Event
The event usually revolves around three important themes the red panda, the ethnic cultures of Sikkim, which I previously mentioned, and finally the ecological aspect.
The entire festival will be held at Gangtok and the venues are usually the most important sites and tourist spots. The main event happens at the Paljor Stadium, and other most important cultural and entertainment events are conducted in MG Marg, which is also one of the the most important venue also a highly visited tourist spot in Sikkim. Followed by which is Saramsa Garden, where the organic site-seeing program takes place, and then the Directorate of handicraft and handloom in Zero Point to display the artefacts and handlooms.
Attractions & Activities To Experience:
As the event that enlarged its popularity from a nearby local festival to an international festival, over years, Sikkim festival started to include many attractions and activities and extended the event timeframe from previously 3 days to now 10 days. Even the guests being invited are also evolving into celebrities and iconic personas apart from local politicians and leaders. During this fest wide range of hotels also provides various offers and activities by leveraging the enlarging scope this event has.
Major attractions of the Festival are Carnival Parade, Eco-adventure sports, cultural, musical & DJ nights, organic products exhibition and sale, Riders Meet, traditional food fest, Fashion Show, International rock contest, and art & Photo Exhibition. Apart from that, the carnival also involves the participation of delegates and artists from Bhutan, Nepal, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, and Gangjong Doeghar Kalimpong to showcase their culture.
Various hotels and restaurants in the capital collaborate in conducting Sikkim Food Festival to showcase their culinary mastery. Sikkim Film Festival will also be conducted as a part of this festival at Manan Kendra. Similarly, during 2019, the Institute of Hotel Management Sajong in East Sikkim has organized a three-day basic program on the preparation of puddings, salads, mocktails, and fruit carving at Hotel Mount Jopuno.
Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation also arranges helicopter joy rides during the carnival. They used to provide a free shuttle service at the SNT bus stop at Gangtok during this event.
In 2018, Tourism and Civil Aviation Department, in collaboration with Indian Himalayan Center for Adventure and Eco-Tourism (IHCAE) and also with Sikkim Mountaineering Association (SMA) organized Eco Adventure activities such as a Mountain Bike Competition, Exhibition of Mountaineering Adventure Equipment, Rock Climbing, Zorbing, and Ropewalk, etc. And it was also the year during which A.R. Rahman was invited and declared the official ambassador of the Red Panda Winter Carnival festival.
Costing & Control
The cost element of this festival depends upon the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation and the Government of Sikkim Tourism partially. Followed by this, the funds procured by the sponsorship become the priority along with the investments made by various local hotels and restaurant owners in the state who are also one of the main stakeholders of the event.
Tourism and Civil Aviation Department, the main organizers of the event, categorizes the budget with the obtained sponsors and investment and execute the event successfully with the management of resources to avoid wastage as well as shortage with sufficient planning by conducting the board meeting with various sectors and community 8 months before the event.
During 2019, A.R. Rahman and other celebrities and private organizations such as Hotels and tourist operators played a huge role in sponsorship of the festival. Naturally, the breakpoint of income will be attained through the tickets sold for certain activities, the registration of participants as well as the number of tourists who engage in other tourism activities as well as the festival activities.
Understanding the festival’s importance, government bodies, private organizations, and the local community shows a great coordination during every stage of execution of the festival. Even during the promotion, not only by the public body but also by the entire division such as travel agencies, hotels and restaurants involve by providing discounts and offers.
Risk Management & Post-Event Activities Of Sikkim Red Panda Winter Festival
Sikkim is one of the highly sensitive states which is bordered by the most important countries such as China and Tibet. Because of this during their event, there will be strong security held around with the permission of the Military and police department and the event happens with the full support of tightened security teams. Apart from that, there are proper route maps available at all parts of the streets and the venues. The timings and the decorations are managed with the support of the locals and the students of Sikkim Government College as well as Manipal University students, who volunteer with the Organizers ie almost 100 to 150 students used to volunteer to serve during the festival.
After the successful end of the festival, every year there will be a post-event meeting within the month after the festival where the board members discuss the lags and issues that occurred with the feedback and data obtained from the locals, hotels, and restaurants as well as the Tourism departments. These data will be analyzed and debated to improve its stature. This kind of post-event activity is also the reason why the board decided to make AR Rahman the Sikkim Tourism Ambassador.
Post-event Sikkim Tourism Minister also conducts a press meet to thank the guest and proclaim the success of the completion of the event and also as a part of replying and convincing the public of their side of the story or apologizing against any negative feedback or issues circulating among public forums. The event’s success was published in the local channels and web tv in the form of a series of videos recording all the sessions of the events in sequence so that the video incline interest among the public to visit the event next year.
Growth Opportunity Of Sikkim Festival
Due to COVID-19 and the travel ban, the event was hugely affected with a lesser possibility to be conducted during the Pandemic. No promotional activities or event planning were happening over the past 2 years. But when I get to know about this festival, I realised how much of a possibility for growth this festival has in future. Besides, I also noticed that there was a lack of promotions being taking place in the Southern part of India as well as the other countries. But when I think about it from the angle of Sustainable tourism, mass tourism activities can also have the possibility to put pressure on Sikkim as a ecological destination.
For passionate and experience seeking vampires like me out there, this is an irresistible experience. Based on personal experience, Sikkim locals are very kind and they have made a best impression on me during my 3-day stay in the past. Visiting Sikkim and Darjeeling was one of the best things that happened in my life so far, and I believe visiting these places again during the festival season would become the experience of a lifetime.
Sikkim Red Panda Winter Carnival Festival is expected to be held this December 20-26 according to Utsav website. But, keep checking the website and Tourism & Civil Aviation Department Facebook account for confirmation and updates about the festival.
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