Cultural pageantry and entertainment programmes here that lasted for over three hours gave a splendid start to the 45-day long Grand Kerala Shopping Festival (GKSF), as the opening ceremony was marked by the huge public participation and the staging of the mega cultural show befitting the occasion.

The Municipal Jawahar Stadium, the venue of the opening ceremony, was flooded by crowds of people which turned up to watch the event in connection with the State-level inauguration of the third season of the shopping festival on Tuesday evening. The inaugural function attended by Ministers, people's representatives, officials and representatives of sponsoring agencies was followed by the cultural items presented by film artistes and playback singers and variety entertainment troupes.

Inaugurating the GKSF, Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac said that the main objective of the 45-day long festival was to make Kerala an international shopping destination. The GKSF was one of the major steps of the State government to strengthen the commercial sectors in the State. None of the Five Year Plans since the planning process started 55 years ago had given any importance to these sectors, he added. Stating that the government planned to extend the shopping festival spirit to the production sectors as well, he said that the decisions to set up a handloom village at Azhikkal here and revive the Kodungallur-Kottappuram weekly fairs were part of this plan. The government wanted to renovate the market places and shopping areas in the State, he added.

Delivering his presidential address, Home and Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that the GKSF, unlike the shopping festivals in Dubai and Singapore, was planned to cover traders to the extent of 38,000 sq. km area of the State. From next year onwards, the GKSF would be organised by the Kerala Trade Fair Authority being set up. Acknowledging the media role for treating the shopping festival as a development enterprise, he said that a permanent trade centre would be developed in Thiruvananthapuram. Trade festivals and international fairs could be held at the trade centre which could also be utilised for selling traditional products of the State, he pointed out.

Devaswom Minister Ramachandran Kadannappally, MLAs A.P. Abdullakutty, P. Jayarajan, K.P. Mohanan and M. Prakashan, Principal Industries Secretary T. Balakrishnan, Tourism Secretary V. Venu and M. Venugopal, Managing Director of the Federal Bank, title sponsor of the event, were among those present at the opening ceremony.