Griffith is gearing up for what may be the biggest event in the town’s history, with 20,000 people expected to visit during the King’s Birthday weekend for the 25th Sikh Games.
The annual Shaheedi tournament is a variety of sports, events and free Indian food stalls organised by the local Punjabi community. This year, it has been expanded to a dual-venue tournament for the first time – with Ted Scobie Oval to host the more traditional Indian-style events while hockey, volleyball and athletics competitions will run at the new Griffith Regional Sports Centre.
“Everything within a 200 km radius of Griffith will be booked out,” organiser Manjit Chugha said.
“Accommodation is our biggest constraint, we expect a lot of people will bring their caravan. We’ve even got people who will be staying in Wagga and driving to Griffith [four-hour return trip] both days.”
Every hotel in Leeton and Narrandera, more than an hour away, is already fully booked as at 31 May, 2023.
Yogesh Bhatt, an event sponsor who runs two major accommodation hubs in Griffith, said he had a waitlist of 140 people for the weekend.
The town’s major tennis tournament for the year, the MIA Open, is held over the same days, making the competition for accommodation even more intense.
Those lucky enough to secure a bed in town will be able to watch the flagship Sikh Games event, the ancient Indian sport of Kabbadi at Ted Scobie Oval on both the Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s like a cross between rugby and wrestling,” Mr Chugha said. “You have to tackle your opponent and then wrestle him to the ground. This year, we will have eight teams, seven from Australia and one from New Zealand.”
In 2016, the Sikh Games Kabbadi event attracted rugby league greats Nathan Hindmarsh and Bryan Fletcher to Griffith, who filmed a segment for Fox Sports’ Matty Johns Show. Hindmarsh tried to atone for the fact he’d never won an NRL premiership with Parramatta by competing in the grand final of the Griffith Kabbadi tournament.
Driving to Ted Scobie Oval to watch the Indian sport is expected to be as challenging as the event itself.
“Parking is a big constraint, so we’ll have buses running between the Sikh Temple, the Griffith Visitors Centre and both Ted Scobie Oval and the sports centre. The buses will go every 10 to 15 minutes, it would be best to take them.”
Incredibly, all 20,000 visitors to the games will be fed for free, with stalls offering tasty Punjabi food set up at Ted Scobie Oval.
The local Sikh community are well known for their generosity, having raised funds for Griffith Base Hospital as well as various bushfire and drought charities.
The King’s Birthday weekend event brings in an estimated $5 million to $6 million to the local economy.
It’s understood no other event in Griffith’s 107-year history has attracted such a big intake of people to town, with the early vintage festivals in the 1960s and 1970s the only events to come close.
“I’d like to thank all the local businesses who support the event every year, without their support we wouldn’t be able to hold it,” Mr Chugha said.
In January, it was announced the Sikh Games would get $100,000 in funding under round five of the NSW Government’s Stronger Communities Fund – an application-based and assessed grants program for rural projects. This has helped organisers expand the event to a second venue and include the sport of hockey for the first time.
Further information on the event can be found on its dedicated Facebook page.