What began years ago as a modest gathering of a few Asian Indian families has mushroomed into a robust festival that draws thousands to St. Paul each year.

The event, called IndiaFest, will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at the State Capitol grounds, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in St. Paul.

Highlights include: traditional and Bollywood dancing and music; henna; a "fancy dress" competition for children; a live DJ; cuisine from local Indian restaurants; and kite-flying.

"It started initially as an indoor event," said Umeshwari Nadkarni, a spokeswoman for India Association of Minnesota, which has been organizing the festival since its inception about 15 years ago. "As the community kept growing, the size of the event grew as well."

Last year's IndiaFest drew a multi-ethnic crowd of more than 4,000 people, she said. This year, organizers hope to double that number.

Minnesota has seen a surge in the number of people who have roots in India.

From 2000 to 2010, the Asian Indian population in Minnesota nearly doubled, from 16,887 to 33,031, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data released on the state's ethnic groups. That's on top of the doubling of the Indian population in the previous decade, from 8,234 in 1990 to 16,887 in 2000.

This year's festival will include a celebration of India's Independence Day, which is coming up on Monday.

To commemorate the event, organizers will unfurl both the Indian and the American flags at the start of IndiaFest and will sing the national anthems of both countries.

In addition, two Minnesota students will be presented with the India Association of Minnesota's Fellowship Award for 2011 high school graduates. The cash award is for $1,000 each.

Admission to the festival is free and so is parking.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488