BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Basking Ridge's largest-ever celebration of Diwali - the Hindu "Festival of Lights" - was held on Sunday under the auspices of a brand new group bringing together a growing population, the Basking Ridge Indian Community (BRIC).

Performances by local dance groups, religious songs, food and a chance to meet neighbors all came together at the morning event at the Oak Street Elementary School in downtown Basking Ridge

Oak Street's gymnasium was decorated with a stage for performers, and included holiday crafts for children and a display to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who is welcomed to bring wealth and prosperity into homes during Diwali, which is also a New Year celebration.

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This is the local community's biggest celebration yet, said Sundari A Rao, an organizer of the event. 

Previous celebrations were held in The Hills community center, but were limited in size by the location, she said. She added the celebration is open to the general public.

Prachi Jain, who is handling publicity for the recently formed BRIC group, said "99 percent" of Sunday's attendees were from Basking Ridge. She said more than 150 families had signed up, and about 600 were expected to drop by at some point during the day before heading home to prepare their own Diwali festivals. 

The organization says on its website, "BRIC has been chartered to build cohesiveness in the community and to represent Indian residents with an interest in the culture and heritage of India. 

"Our goal is to pass along our rich traditions and cultural values to future generations and to demonstrate our good citizenship and commitment to the mores of a pluralistic society."

Those attending Sunday's event were dressed in their holiday best - or as part of a dance group or even one of the Gods being honored in the festival, including Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha.

The organizers said they plan to hold the public Diwali festival in future years.