The celebration begins

Singaporeans were given a special day off yesterday to mark Singapore's 50th year of independence, and they came out by the thousands to do so everywhere - on land, by the beach and in the air.

Singaporeans thronged heartland centres, visited landmarks such as the ArtScience Museum and the Botanic Gardens, enjoyed picnics at Marina Bay and Sentosa island - and even looked eagerly overhead as fighter pilots performed aerobatic stunts up high and over the waterfront.

To top it off, the special public holiday, which made for an extended break, was anchored by a Sing50 concert at the National Stadium, presented by The Straits Times and The Business Times.

More than 41,000 Singaporeans packed the National Stadium for the concert to celebrate 50 years of Singapore music.

For over two hours, young and old were taken on a journey through history with some of the songs that brought a people together - from rock 'n' roll hits of the uncertain 1960s to rap numbers of a more confident 21st century.

There were songs in Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English, performed by stars including Dick Lee, Rahimah Rahim, Jeremy Monteiro, Stefanie Sun and Rani Singam, reflecting the multiracial and shared heritage of a nation on the cusp of its 50th anniversary.

The concert concluded with a heartfelt sing-along by the audience, including President Tony Tan Keng Yam, to the National Day Parade classic Home, and a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, as the first day of the four-day long weekenddrew to a close.

Earlier, outdoor celebrations were slightly dampened by a downpour, but crowds still showed up in force at events.

At the Marina Barrage, the Black Knights soared and swooped overhead in their red-and-white Fighting Falcons as a 10,000-strong crowd cheeredthem from below.

But the Republic of Singapore Air Force aerobatics team had to cut their planned 25-minute performance by four minutes due to cloudy conditions in the morning.

Elsewhere, about 25,000 people visited the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Those who braved the initial downpour were rewarded with prime seats at its outdoor concert.

There, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled a plaque marking the latest feather in Singapore's cap - the Gardens' new status as a UnescoWorld Heritage Site.

There was also a new bloom for the country as Mr Lee officially named the SG50 orchid, the Singapore Golden Jubilee - a hybrid coloured in shades of pink and mauve with a bright yellow throat.

Meanwhile, queues formed at several museums and attractions as many flocked to take advantage of waived admission fees for Singaporeans and permanent residents.

The ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands saw people wait for hours in snaking queues, while lines at the Science Centre began at 8am. The National Heritage Board reported that over 22,000 visited its eight museums and heritage institutions.

At Sentosa, entry to the Merlion was free yesterday. Celebrations in the heartland were no less exciting, as some 16,000 residents watched live performances and played carnival games at picnics in Pasir Ris, Sembawang and West Coast.

The less fortunate were not forgotten as more than 9,000 people took part in a 4km Community Chest Heartstrings Walk and raised over $2 million for charity.

Mr Lee, who made an appearance at the walk, said later on Facebook: "In this Jubilee year, our progress as an inclusive, caring community deserves special celebration."


This article was first published on August 8, 2015.
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