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Bachchan

Last year’s festival drew about 70,000 people over two days. This year there were about 100,000 Indian-Americans out on Fremont streets, including those who lined the parade route.

To minimise risks, only 18,000 people were allowed inside the festival grounds, but there were 25,000 clamouring to go in.

In view of last year’s experience, the city authorities in Fremont were reluctant to give permission for last weekend’s festivities, but they relented in the face of pressure from the Bay Area’s wealthy and influential Indian-Americans.

“I think this is pretty much a test of whether we are able to do this,” Fremont Mayor Gus Morrison told The Mercury News of San Jose after permission was granted.

“Are we able to do this kind of a festival without a major impact on the rest of the community'” he wondered.

As part of the efforts to make amends for last year’s near-riot, Indian-American community leaders this year hired a professional event organiser instead of the usual practice of relying on volunteers.

City officials also forced them to submit detailed plans for parking, security, toilets, crowd flow and ticket sales. But all their planning did not take into account the mesmerising effect which Bachchan would have on his fans on the West Coast. And they were totally unprepared for it. So was the screen idol.

Undeterred by the controversies which have dogged the festival, its main organiser has said the annual event should be given the same latitude as the Fremont Festival of the Arts, which closes down city streets and draws about 400,000 people every year.

Romesh Japra, president of the Federation of Indian Associations of Northern California, has been quoted in the local media as saying: “If the Festival of the Arts can have 400,000 people, then we need to be accommodated the same way.”

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