The Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay was born in June 1981 at the residence of Mr. Ghanshyam Patel at a meeting of a few individuals including Ghanshyam Patel, P.S. Patel and Pradip Patel. The Samaj celebrated the Navratri Garbas at the Seminole Garden Center on Central Ave. and the Diwali program at the Roy Haynes Park in 1981 under the first president Mr. Ghanshyam Patel.
P.C. Patel presided over the Samaj in 1982. Navratri garbas in those days were very simple considering the costumes and the music. The music was pre recorded on audio tapes and played on a portable audio cassette player.
Mr. Pradip Patel was the president of the Samaj for the years of 1983, 1984, and 1985. In 1983 came the first custom made costumes clad choreographed Raas Garbas by teenagers. During this year the Gujarati Samaj also sponsored and screened a Gujarati play “Ghar Ghar Mati na Chula”. In the spring of 1984 a “Khichadi Picnic” was organised to encourage both young and adults collectively. This tradition is alive even today! Every year the Samaj organises a picnic with Khichadi, roasted Corn and Watermelon to celebrate Mother’s Day at the Fort De Soto Beach. TheMother’s Day Picnic of spring 1998 was a great success.
The Navratri Garbas of 1985 graduated to a new high of dancing to the music of now famous Lalit Sodha and party from Mumbai, India.The Diwali Dinner Party included a variety of Entertainment programmes from local talents.
Thus began a new era in the history of the Samaj. Committee meetings became formal as minutes got written, approved and recorded. Praful Patel was elected as the President in 1986 with the first female, Neki shah as the vice president.This year the Samaj successfully organised the Sports Day and Holi celebrations.The summer of 1986 brought the first Anand Bazaar that was organised at the 2nd floor of the USF Administrative bldg.The Samaj grew in size with the increasing memberships. Larger halls were rented for festivals and for the first time “Lahni” was distributed to members at the Navratri Raas Garba. The Diwali Dinner was a big hit too as it included a “Natak” by the adult members of the Samaj.A magazine with Mahatma Gandhi on its front page.took over from its previous photo copied list for members. By now the spirit and enthusiasm of Gujaratis were such that volunteers and funds were in abundance.
Sharad Patel took over the reins as the president in 1987 and this year the the Samaj politically supported Helen Chavez as a mayoral candidate at the Anand Bazaar. 1988 and 1989 saw the presidency of Dr. Kiran Patel and Anand Bazaar evolved in to the now popular India festival at Sundome, USF.
Mahendra Doshi presided in 1990. Membership grew at a considerable rate .The popular Diwali Dinner was now prepared by professional caterers. During the 1991 presidency of Mr.Khandu Patel trophies for the India Festival were custom designed, made and imported from India.
1992 presidency of Ramesh Parmar was marred by his tragic accident and the serious injury to his eyes. Our savor, the ever reliable Mr. P.D.Patel who was the Vice president took over and acted as the president and performed the duties of the president as well as the vice president.Thank you Mr. Patel, for your selfless devotion to the Samaj that we see even today.
In 1993 Nikunj Patel was the President, the Samaj was thriving to uphold and improve the quality of the functions the Samaj continued to host successful cultural and religious events.
Tampa Bay community’s good old dream came true in August 1996, with the completion of the India Cultural Center. Under the presidency and leadership of Dr. Kiran C. Patel a Center aimed to inspire purer, fuller and better life that speaks of Love and Unity was born.The community’s desire to have its own facility was finally fulfilled. The center is aimed at providing us to practice the laws of Dharma, Karma, and Giving. The trustees of The India Cultural Center (ICC) urge both young and adults to actively participate in the cultural events and also to support ICC and the community as a whole in every way you can.
“It is my hope that ICC and its Trustees will be playing the vital role of bridging the gap between the generations and providing a platform and a vehicle with which the rich culture and heritage of our community will be maintained for generations to come.”-Dr.Kiran Patel.
The president for Gujarati Samaj for 1996 was Dr.Nandkishor Shah.The Samaj now hosted its events in the new facility, ICC at 1511 Lynn Road, Tampa FL. With the passing of each year the annual events of India Festival expanded to the level of acceptance where people came all the way from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia to share this great family affair. Year after year the event of India Festival promised family fun for all with exotic Indian Foods, Folk Dance, Raas and Garba Competitions.
1997-The “Suwarna Jayanti” (Golden Aniversaty) of India’s Independence from the British Rule, India festival marks the completion of a Decade.This year Dr. Vijay Patel presided over the Gujarati Samaj. And under the Chairmanship of Dr.Kiran Patel and P.D.Patel as the Co-chairman Gujarati Samaj hosted the 10th India Festival and FOGANA a national compettition of Folk Dances. The Samaj not only successfully organised this 2 day event but also provided food and accomodations to the participants of Fogana. On the third day was a live Musical show by Kumar Sanu and Kavita Krishnamurthy which was a huge success.
Dr. Mukesh Kapadia presided over the Samaj in 1998, keeping the traditions of the Gujarati Samaj alive. This past year the Samaj very sucessfully organised Diwali, Navratri, and the 11th annual India Festival along with lots of other cleebrations of Indian festivals and cultural events. This year The Samaj reached new heights by launching its own website on the World Wide Web.