The first-ever Daytona Beach Rathayatra festival was celebrated on September 12, and in spite of ever-threatening rain, the parade turned out to be a blissful and well-attended affair. The festival was very nicely organized by Bhadra and Balavanta prabhus in conjunction with the Hindu Society of Daytona Beach, and was a huge success.
Jarati dasi once again skillfully prepared a sumptuous and delicious feast with help from her daughter and several volunteers at the Hindu cultural center. The cooking had to be done outside on large gas stoves, as the building had no cooking facilities. Nonetheless, many people were happily cutting and helping Jarati prabhu to prepare (it reminded us of the old New Vrindavan "pits" days!) The center's directors also served out a simple meal of chipped rice and sweets to help sustain the devotees until the big feast after the parade.
Arriving at the beach site, we found it deserted, due to ominous black storm clouds and high tides. These conditions did not bode well for the Lord's cart ride. Slowly but surely, however, the faithful began to arrive, and the devotees, including many Indian families, became encouraged by the presence of so many participants. Then numerous donors helped to get the parade off to a good start by offerring puja to Their Lordships, and breaking the auspicious coconuts before the carts started to roll. Presentations were made by Bhadra, and everyone blissfully chanted and danced their way down the beachfront.
The sounds of ecstatic kirtan brought many curious people out on the balconies of high-rise condos, receiving both the benefit of hearing the Holy name and seeing the merciful Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balaram and Lady Subhadra. Some decided to join the procession, even helping to pull the cart. Devotees passed out small books and invitations to the prasadam feast coming up after the procession at the beach park.
With the wonderful success of this new Rathayatra celebration, Bhadra and his crew of volunteers are enthused and excited about making next year's festival even bigger and better.
For more pictures, check out my album at http://devalamom.myphotoalbum.com.