SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The holiday season arrives early in downtown Sioux Falls this weekend. The local Hindu community is hosting a Festival of Lights Saturday, their version of Christmas. The festival is expected to be the city’s largest-ever Hindu celebration.

The decorations are going up inside the Multi-Cultural Center ahead of a gathering for the Hindu holiday of Diwali.

“In India, Diwali is celebrated in the Muslim community, in the Christian community, the Jewish community, there is no community in the world that does not put lights in their homes, make sweets, hugs each other and say Happy Diwali,” Hindu Temple of Siouxland President Vandana Baireddy said.

The Hindu community has been growing steadily in Sioux Falls, a credit, they say, to the city’s hospitality and an abundance of job openings.

“I love Sioux Falls. It is safe. It is warm and welcoming and we have so many institutions that are growing here,” Baireddy said.

Hindus further established themselves in South Dakota by opening their own temple near Tea four years ago, the only such temple in the state. It was shut down during the pandemic and reopened earlier this year. This will be the first public Diwali celebration since the pandemic started. And it’s already sold-out.

“Everybody’s been in their houses celebrating in basements. Now they’ve got the chance to actually come out and celebrate, so this would be the biggest Diwali in Sioux Falls,” Baireddy said.

The Multi-Cultural Center says the celebration will be another opportunity for people of different backgrounds and faiths to come together and share their culture.

“And we really feel like the use of the coliseum, this space, was intended for this purpose, to provide a welcoming venue for communities from all backgrounds to come,” LSS/Multi-Cultural Center President & CEO Rebecca Kiesow-Knudsen said.

The Festival of Lights will be shining brightly on the cultural and religious melting pot in the heart of Sioux Falls.

The Hindu temple is raising money for an expansion of the building to include a hall for cultural activities and events.