1.7m people join the celebrations

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Some 1.7 million people participated in the SG50 celebrations, with thousands going to dozens of events in all parts of the island.

A big part of the enthusiastic support and participation has been because of the extra long holiday that the Government announced to celebrate 50 years of independence, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

"I am very heartened by the tremendous show of love for our country," said Mr Heng, who chairs the SG50 Steering Committee, which oversees the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The long weekend signalled to Singaporeans that this National Day is a special one and allowed the organisers of various SG50 events to spread out the activities over several days, said Mr Heng on the sidelines of a community event in Tampines yesterday.

Besides free travel on public buses and the MRT on Sunday, many of Singapore's biggest attractions were open for free, or had a discounted entry price.

These included the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, the Science Centre, public swimming pools and gyms across the island.

The free attractions attracted huge crowds, with snaking queues of people lining up to get in.

Mr Frank Chew, 34, said that he had waited in line for an hour to visit the ArtScience Museum last Saturday but left after being told he was not even halfway through the queue.

"The savings from the free entry was not worth all the time wasted standing around doing nothing," said Mr Chew, an engineer.

The work of people manning the various stores and organising the many activities was acknowledged by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

In a post on Facebook, he thanked the organising committee, parade participants, performers and volunteers for putting up "a spectacular show" during the parade.

He said that the atmosphere at the Padang had been electric, adding: "I know many were with us all over Singapore, and the world, when we sang and waved our scarves and flags."

The Prime Minister added that he had attended the first National Day Parade in 1966, a year after Singapore's independence: "My father personally supervised the rehearsals, because he felt it was vital for Singaporeans to feel united and confident as a new nation.

"Last night, we celebrated as one people... Mr Lee would have been proud."

PM Lee also thanked "the many people who had worked hard to make the Jubilee Weekend memorable - organisers, staff, Traffic Police and many others too".

He added: "And thank you to Singaporeans for joining in the celebrations. May we have many more occasions to celebrate our nationhood."

Separately, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters yesterday after house visits in Balestier that Singaporeans had made the parade their own.

He said: "They reminisced over the vintage parade, gushed at the aerial display, sang our songs with gusto and cried at the end of the tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew."

Meanwhile, Singaporeans continued to take advantage of the public holiday yesterday to extend their celebrations.

Long queues formed at the cable car stations on the Mount Faber Line, on the last day of free rides offered to Singaporeans and permanent residents.

By about 1.15pm, the wait for the rides had stretched to 10 hours, a post on the Singapore Cable Car Facebook page said.

This article was first published on Aug 11, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.