IN A BANQUETING hall in British Columbia, hundreds watched enthralled as the fierce competitors faced off to tie the perfect Sikh turban and pay tribute to the colorful headgear.

“A good turban is all about practice, neatness and experience,’ said Ravi Sharma, engrossed in his art as about 2,000 people looked on.

Some 75 competitors were taking part in the eighth annual turban competition, the largest in North America.

The colors were bright, loud and the designs intricate as the competitors, all Sikhs, either from or descended from India’s Punjab state, whipped up a variety of turban styles.

Sharma, a 35-year-old welder, says he can tie about six turban styles, including those for Sikhs in the military and another for performers.

“The cloth measures about five to six meters and it should never hit the ground (out of respect for what it represents). The judges are looking at speed, neatness of the turban and if the hair is covered. It takes me about six or seven minutes.”

Sharma was competing in the 31-45 years category. Despite hoping to improve on his bronze medal last year, he again finished third this year, behind winner Gurpreet Singh Tung, a 32-year-old truck driver originally from the Punjab village of Tugal near Ludhiana, and runner-up Omandeep Singh.

While children ran around the vast hall, a troupe of sari-clad women and girls performed a traditional dance.

Harjit Singh Gill, one of the organizers sporting a saffron turban, a favored color for celebrations, said the event has grown rapidly since its first year when 400 people attended.

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