Belfast Mela festival: Thousands descend on Botanic Gardens with splash of colour and noise
Belfast Mela returned to Botanic Gardens on Sunday with a bright splash of colour and noise.
There were long queues of all ages and nationalities to get into the gates from noon.
Belfast's eighth Mela started with a carnival type opening parade through the grounds of the south Belfast park including a life size model elephant, 16ft Chinese dragon, Dhol drummers and Bollywood dancers led by Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon.
The Great Lawn was packed as the crowds basking in sunshine took in performances from Irish dancers, and Bollywood Brass band and south Asian dancing.
A world food market included delicacies from 20 different nationalities while those seeking a more mellow atmosphere enjoued yoga and meditation in the World of Wellbeing tent.
Numbers of those who attended have not yet been finalised, but organisers believe even more attended than the 20,000 who came to the event last year.
Junior Ministers Jonathan Bell and Jennifer McCann were among those in attendance at the event organised by AtsEkta and praised it as the "real face of Belfast".
Mr Bell said: “Year after year the number of people coming to Botanic Gardens to enjoy and experience the pageantry, passion and panache of the Mela has increased.
"Today we are a city united, united in celebration and united in enthusiasm. This for me represents the real face of the people of Belfast. Friendly, welcoming, open armed and open hearted.
"This is a strong message to those responsible for racial attacks. This is the message I want the world to see."
Ms McCann added: "The vibrancy of the Mela represents all that is positive about our multi-cultural society.
"I want to see today’s spirit of friendliness and mutual respect become an everyday part of life here. We all want to see an end to racial inequalities, racism and hate crimes."
Belfast Telegraph Digital