A different kind of twang will emanate from the Cloverdale Rodeo’s big red barn this Victoria Day long weekend as one of Western Canada’s largest rodeos gallops toward multiculturalism.

For the first time, the annual Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair is holding a South Asian festival focused on Indo-Canadian culture, music and dance.

South Asians account for more than a quarter of Surrey’s population.

“We have a significant South Asian population in the immediate vicinity and we wanted them to be introduced to the event and really feel welcome,” said Laura Ballance, rodeo spokeswoman.

“We think it’s a great opportunity to expand and ... have programming that is more reflective of our community.”

The event, which takes place May 23, is named Desi Mela, which translates to “country folk fair.” It is a free-with-admission, all-ages event at the Longhorn Saloon.

It features Bhangra dancers, Punjabi folk singers and even a Charlie Chaplin-inspired comedian. Among them is Manak-E, a U.K.-based artist with a string of hit singles. He is on a global tour for his latest album.

“We’re bringing artists from India and Britain,” Ballance said. “It’s about opening up and inviting the community to take in the country fair. We think it’s a tremendous fit.”

The South Asian festival was made possible through a $30,000 grant from the federal Marquee Tourism Events Program. The rodeo runs from May 21 to 24.

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