Younger generations of Sikhs should be proud of their heritage and grateful that Canada provides them the right to live freely and express their choice of religion, a Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster told about 200 participants Sunday, at Khalsa Day celebrations inside the Sikh Association of Brantford temple on Park Road North. "You can be a baptized Sikh and still be cool," Harnarayan Singh, part of CBC's Punjabi-language broadcast team, said in a guest address aimed at the children and teens in the crowd. "That's what I want to let my younger brothers and sisters know." Singh's comments came near the end of an hour-plus of prayers and speakers including several political dignitaries. That was followed by lunch and a colourful parade participated in by an estimated 800 or more that wound down West Street and Fairview Drive before heading back up to the temple along Memorial Drive, Dunsdon Road and Park Road North. Singh said his great-grandfather, one of the first Sikhs in Canada, came to this country in 1907. Much has changed here in the past century, he added, with society moving from a position of prejudice "to where the Sikh faith is today in this wonderful nation of Canada, where we are allowed to practise our faith." He urged Sikhs to continue acting with humility, "helping the poor and reading and meditating in life" as the gurus have indicated. It's a good way of life for anyone, he added. "You don't have to be a Sikh," he said. "Be who you are and follow those ideals... You can be proud of wearing that turban and still be on Hockey Night in Canada." The celebrations mark both Khalsa -the day in 1699 when a major development occurred that changed the face of the faith -and Vaisakhi, or Baisakhi, a harvest festival that predates Khalsa and has elements similar to both New Year's Day and North American Thanksgiving. Much of the service was delivered in Punjabi, but several speakers also made remarks in English. One of those, Dr. Onkar Singh, explained the significance of the occasion for those visitors who were unfamiliar with Sikh principles. Singh explained the tale of Khalsa as it unfolded on March 30, 1699. The faith's 10th guru, Gobind Singh, called together all of the faithful to one big gathering in the land of Punjab (now Pakistan). He pulled his blade and said, "This sword is hungry for a head," waiting until one young man came to him as an apparent sacrifice. He pulled the young man aside out of view of the audience, and came out alone with his sword covered in blood. The guru then repeated his demand for another head, and another, and another, and a fifth. Onkar Singh said that by this point many thought the guru had gone mad and were leaving the assembly. But then the guru emerged with all five men intact, and wearing new uniforms. The purity of their faith (or Khalsa) had shone through and they were to be known ever after as the five beloved ones. And from that point on, the direction of Sikhism changed. Khalsa is still celebrated on March 30 in small family gatherings, but the community event is now rolled into the Vaisakhi festival. Association president Dalip Singh Multani noted that the first Sikh family in Brantford arrived here in 1965, and the community has grown steadily since, highlighted by the establishment of the temple in the 1980s. "We have made a lot of progress and gave given back to the community is many ways," Multani said. Brant federal Liberal candidate Lloyd St. Amand, acting on behalf of Brant MPP Dave Levac, echoed those words. "It's a day to reflect on the principles of the Sikh religion, which are time-honoured and inspiring," St. Amand said. "The Sikh Association of Brantford has contributed richly to this community for 45 years."