Singaporeans have long marked Aug 9 by singing National Day songs with one voice. At this year's parade, they went one step further by hand-signing the lyrics together.
Last night's parade - the first in Kallang in a decade - was symbolic in signalling the nation Singapore aspires to be: where everyone, including those with disabilities and the disadvantaged, is embraced.
Some 150 participants with special needs led the 55,000 spectators at the National Stadium in signing along to the classic songs Home and Count On Me, Singapore.
The signers, from seven voluntary welfare organisations, had special needs ranging from visual and hearing impairments to physical and intellectual disabilities. The crowd gestured in unison, a poignant call for Singaporeans to be more caring and inclusive as a society.
Yesterday's celebration of 51 years of independence was also the first at the National Stadium after the former stadium was torn down 10 years ago. The audience did not miss a beat in celebrating this return with ripples of red and white, leaping to their feet and roaring as the Kallang Wave swept through the very arena where it was born.
This year's venue, with its closed domed roof, meant favourites like the freefalling Red Lions and fighter jet displays had to be shelved. But there were new surprises.
Giant suspended props and aerialists dazzled the audience, who were awed by a gripping re-enactment of the Singapore Stone legend. Actors representing forefathers from various civilisations who sank roots here then twirled around in colourful ethnic costumes.
True to the theme, Building Our Singapore Of Tomorrow, the show cast its gaze to the future. Drones, flying dancers in LED suits, laser lights and giant floating buildings bathed in 3D projections dominated the stage, in a testament to the country's commitment to innovation.
At one point, a flying unicorn and a young boy, symbols of Singapore's dreams for the future, soared above the crowd.
"I was really impressed with all the 'floating' props. It was something different," said company director Jessica Ang, 45.
Singapore's 25 athletes competing at the Olympic Games also took part, sending their greetings via a video link from Rio de Janeiro.
The night ended with bursts of fireworks both inside the stadium and above the Kallang Basin.
Security was stepped up at the parade, amid a heightened threat environment in the region.
Engineer Terence Ng, 56, who was at the parade with his mother, wife and daughter, hopes the country will remain united should a disaster strike. His National Day wish: "May we stick together through the good and bad times."
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