Floats and fireworks: New book captures 45 years of Chingay Parade

The People's Parade: 45 Years of Chingay was launched on Jan 11, 2017 by the People's Association (PA) and Singapore Press Holdings subsidiary Focus Publishing.
The People's Parade: 45 Years of Chingay was launched on Jan 11, 2017 by the People's Association (PA) and Singapore Press Holdings subsidiary Focus Publishing.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

SINGAPORE - From black-and-white photos of stilt-walkers and a huge tiger float roaming Toa Payoh in the 1970s, to the glitzy extravaganzas of the 21st century, a new book memorialises the Chingay Parade through the years.

The book, The People's Parade: 45 Years Of Chingay, was launched on Wednesday (Jan 11) by the People's Association (PA) and Singapore Press Holdings subsidiary Focus Publishing.

It marks the 45th anniversary of the annual parade, which heralds the Chinese New Year. PA chief executive director Ang Hak Seng said: "We hope this book brings back memories from each parade. At every milestone, we must stop and document these memories to remember the past."

Freelance writer Sharon Sim, who spent four months working on the text for the book, pored over old newspaper archives and programmes to glean insight into the festivities of each era.

Ms Sim, 42, said she was moved when she realised how beloved the parade had been in its early years to members of the public, when it would tour the heartlands.

Parade-goers would stand on their bicycles and deck chairs to get a glimpse of the colourful floats and dancers. Some would even climb trees and clamber onto the parapets of HDB blocks for a good view.

"It made me want to be there," she said.

The parade started in 1973, a year after firecrackers were banned in Singapore. Early parades were a heartland affair, with highlights such as a 9m-long roaring tiger float in 1974.

Chingay moved to Orchard Road in 1985, and in 1987 featured its first international acts, including 18-year-old Japanese pop singer Eri Murata.

The book also captures two famously damp Chingays - the 1995 parade, which took place on the wettest day in February since 1929, and last year's, which suffered a downpour on its first night.

On both occasions, performers braved the rain, despite soaked costumes and damaged props, to keep the show going.

A thousand copies of the book have been printed, most of which will go to Chingay's corporate partners and participants. It is not for sale, but members of the public can browse through copies at their nearest community centres.

It is the fourth commemorative book on Chingay published by PA. The others marked the parade's 35th and 40th anniversaries, as well as Singapore's 50th birthday in 2015.

Part-time administrative assistant Angela Heng, who has been in the last 43 parades as a performer or make-up artist, said thatleafing through the book reminded her of the joy she felt dancing in the parade in the 1980s and 1990s.

"Every year I just want to take part so I can be with my friends," said the 63-year-old. "I feel so happy when I'm part of the parade."

oliviaho@sph.com.sg