Published

August 6, 2022 at 10: 27 PM

SINGAPORE - Fireworks lit the night sky and the National Anthem rang loud as thousands gathered in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on Saturday evening (Aug 6) to kick off the nation's 57th birthday bash a few days early.

The carnival atmosphere was palpable, with residents young and old enjoying the day out, participating in activities such as arts and crafts workshops and games of ring toss.

Around 20,000 people turned up for the ticketed event at the park, which kicked off at 4pm and ended at 9pm.

Besides the ever-popular fireworks display, they were also treated to a range of stage performances - from a magic show to popular tunes sung by getai veteran Liu Ling Ling - and static displays of vehicles from the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team.

The celebration was in stark contrast to a year ago when stricter Covid-19 measures saw the National Day Parade postponed by nearly two weeks, community fireworks displays being cancelled, and some events moved online.

"My wish is that we don't have a repeat of Covid-19 and live the virtual life again," said cyber-security engineer Chakir Hamid, 44, who was at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park with family and friends.

The carnival on Saturday, along with three others in Punggol, Sembawang and Buona Vista, marked the first time since the pandemic that large-scale National Day celebrations returned to the heartland.

It was organised by the People's Association, and there will be a similar carnival held in Geylang Serai on Sunday.

Also on Saturday, the first National Day concert held at Gardens by the Bay in two years drew close to 10,000 people.

President Halimah Yacob was the guest of honour at the event organised by Gardens by the Bay and Mediacorp, and there were performances from the likes of Taufik Batisah, Dick Lee, Benjamin Kheng and Annette Lee.

Amid the festive mood, there were still signs that the pandemic is not yet over as many people at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park wore face masks.

Only those fully vaccinated were allowed to attend the heartland celebration, and at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, a few hundred volunteers were deployed to ensure safe management measures were adhered to.

Mr Chang Sek Yew, 64, who chaired the organising committee for the event there, said the carnival brought together residents from other areas, such as Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, officiated the event. Also in attendance were Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, as well as MPs from constituencies in the Central Singapore district.

Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance Chee Hong Tat, who is an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, said such events are important for community bonding.

He added: "You can feel around you that the atmosphere is really very positive. We are able to do this because we have managed to bring the Covid-19 situation to a more stable (state)."

Ms Vivian Teo, 35, and her extended family were not able to get tickets to the carnival at the park, but found a spot nearby for a picnic.

"We were quite surprised to see that there were so many people. But I'm so happy that the National Day celebrations are back," the insurance agent said.