CLEARWATER — If the economy has squashed your budget, but not your travel bug, all is not lost. Just head to Clearwater Beach to get a glimpse and taste of the exotic.
The 3rd Annual Festival of the Chariots and Ratha Yatra Parade will turn Pier 60 Pavilion into a spectacle of color with a parade and festival featuring Indian culture and food.
"We had more than 500 people attend in Clearwater Beach last year," said Bhadra das, who has been involved in such festivals for 35 years.
ISKCON Alachua, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness from Alachua County, sponsors the festival and collects donations to pay for event costs. Founder charya, known as His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, introduced the Festival of the Chariot, called Ratha Yatra in India, when he arrived in America from India 45 years ago.
The meaning behind the chariot procession, according to Bhadra das, is that God is coming out of the temple to give his mercy to everyone.
"Everyone is welcome to come," said Bhadra das. "This event has been going on for thousands of years in India. And now it is happening in countries all over this planet."
The public may take part in the festival on Clearwater Beach by joining the chariot procession and tasting the vegetarian food. The group has prepared enough food for about 600.
Anyone is free to grab one of the 100-foot-long ropes and help pull the chariot along the parade route, which starts at Pier 60 and makes a 1-mile loop, followed by the vegetarian feast.