Despite the downpour earlier in the afternoon, the Pilgrim family decided to go ahead with our plan to watch the National Day Parade.
I remember attempts in previous years to watch the parade from the periphery. It was always fun, but I felt distinctly outside the real event, part of the Ticketless Masses.
But oh the wonders of having it on the bay this year! The openness of the space meant that apart from the gallery seats, the entire circumference of the bay was available for the public, who would be able to enjoy an unobstructed view of much of the event. Beyond the floating platform, the action would happen on the bay itself, which meant that airborne vehicles could fly much lower than before, and that the navy could finally become part of the parade. Against the backdrop of the Singapore city skyline, coupled with the sea breeze and blue sky, it was a completely refreshing experience, symbolic of the openness and inclusiveness Singapore is trying to grow into. I’d have to say the change in venue was my favourite aspect of this parade. It really made me want to shout Majulah Singapura at the top of my lungs.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We arrived in the city at about 5.45pm and settled on a spot at the grassy patch behind NTUC building, right across the bay from the gallery and parade platform. There were already hundreds of people there (swelling to thousands as the evening wore on). The atmosphere was festive – there were kids blowing bubbles and kicking balls, and families having a picnic. Here’s the view from our spot:
The first excitement of the day was the Red Lions. Someone spotted them and soon everyone was on their feet, pointing and cheering.
The next bit of excitement was the flypast. We had the (I think) F16s , followed by the flag, and a wonderful aerial display by two Apache helicopters right above the bay. They were a sight to behold, dipping, rolling and hovering as everyone oohed and aahed. The Pilgrim boys were thoroughly enraptured, and Athos pranced, jumped and cheered as though he had never seen a helicopter before.
At one point, a Chinook thundered by at such a low altitude that we thought it was going to land on the water. Instead, its doors opened and several naval divers jumped off into the water, and were picked up by a couple of boats. We couldn’t actually see this part, but the genius of this year’s parade was that it was webcast. And the Pilgrim family (in a moment of rare foresight) brought our laptop and a broadband connection so we could catch the bits that we couldn’t see with our own eyes. It turned out to be quite a public service for the families sitting around us 🙂
As the sky darkened, a row of naval boats emerged onto the bay with beautiful lighted balloons. Alas my mobile camera was not up to the task so you’ll just have to believe me when I say that the effect was absolutely magical.
At some point, another set of Red Lions came floating down from the sky, much to everyone’s delight.
And then of course, the fireworks. We had an excellent view, but were caught offguard when fireworks started going off behind us as well – it turned out that some were being launched from buildings around the bay! The boys were thrilled (though Aramis was scared at first). Pilgrim Dad and I agreed that, even from where we were seated, the parade was a success – a fitting party for a nation in full bloom.