When they planned the first Manasota India Festival two years ago, organizers figured maybe 500 people would show up.
They were mistaken. At least 4,000 people attended that first year. And that same number turned out last year for the second festival.
This year, organizers figure 4,500 to 5,000 people will attend the festival, because it has built some word-of-mouth.
But the sheer numbers aren't what's really important, they say.
"We're not going to judge success by whether we have 4,000 or 4,200 or 5,000," said Bharat Patel, a member of the organizing committee. "We're going to see how well we can show off our culture."
The festival is set for Saturday at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto. It runs from noon until 8 p.m.
As in previous years, the festival is divided into two sessions, one from noon until about 3 p.m., and the other from 4 until about 7 p.m. The second session will be essentially a repeat of the first. Between the two sessions, there will be video presentations, a fashion show and local children portraying historical figures as part of a "living museum."
During the two three-hour session, the theme will be "Dances of India." (The $3 admission allows you to stay for both sessions.)
Every region of India has a characteristic style of dance, often performed by locals at traditional festivals. On Saturday, members of the Bradenton area Indian community will perform those dances. Festival-goers will even get a chance to learn some of the moves themselves.
Almost all of the area's Indian restaurants will be on hand, selling authentic dishes.
Some of the most popular features from last year will also return. There will be a photo booth where festival attendees can try on Indian clothes and get their pictures taken. Yoga experts will give instructions and demonstrations on traditional yoga practices, which are different from American yoga. Women can buy saris and get instructions on how to put them on.
In one of the festival's most distinctive offerings, artists will paint designs on people's hands, either the back or the palm, with henna. You can choose from some established designs or create your own. It's sort of like a short-term tattoo.
The vast majority of people who have attended the Manasota India Fest in its first two years, Rao and Patel both said, have been people who are not of Indian origin.
Vishal Doshi, who's also on the organizing committee, estimated that about 200 families of Indian origin now live in this area.
In the past 10 years, the number of Indian restaurants has gone from one to at least six or seven. That means more non-Indian people encounter people from India in their daily lives.
The stereotype is that people from India run convenience stores, and a lot of them do, Patel said. But he noted that people from India make up only about 1 percent of the U.S. population, and they represent 5 percent of all doctors.
"India has a rich and diverse culture," Patel said. "One of the things we are trying to do is to fight the stereotypes. But we're doing it in a way that's entertaining."
Details: Noon-8 p.m. Aug. 22, Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto. Tickets: $3. Information: 941-524-6545, manasotaindiafest.com.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.