SINGAPORE - The first of 26,000 people who filled the Padang began trickling in as early as 3pm this afternoon.
Some came early in the hope of getting good seats, while others wanted to avoid the congestion and long queues that would inevitably occur later.
This is the first National Day Parade that graphic designer Noel Tan, 43, is watching live. With him is his five-year-old-daughter Raine.
"She has been looking forward to it for so long. She has been singing National Day songs for days," he tells The Straits Times. And her favourite song is? "The Home song," says Raine.
Teacher Ong Kai Kun, 33, and artist Morgan Ang, 47 arrived early to get good seats and are very happy to have won ballots to watch the parade live.
"The last time we attended NDP was about 2 or 3 years ago at the Floating Platform. So, we are delighted that we are here at the Padang for Singapore's 50th birthday. It cannot be missed," they told The Straits Times.
Mr Dominic Lai, 43, said, "We arrived at about 3.15pm to get a good seat. Singapore has come a very very long way, in a very very short time. Even companies can't progress that fast!"
Another 25,000 people will be watching the parade from the Floating Platform at Marina Bay, where they are likely get the best view of the fireworks this evening.
And more than 100,000 are expected to pack the rest of the Bay area, including the Singapore Flyer and Marina Barrage, where they can watch the parade on giant LED screens.
Sanjjeev Ganesan's family is picnicking at the Marina Barrage and waiting for the fireworks display in the evening. "The Black Knights were the best!" says the 11-year-old, who wants to be a pilot when he grows up.
By afternoon, people had already begun to cluster by the riverside, outside the Fullerton Hotel and near the Merlion.
Mr Dani Junaidi, 41, operations executive, and his wife Rohana Samat, 38, an administrator, are at the Floating Platform.
"It's our first time at the parade and we are looking forward to the fireworks since the Float is the best spot to catch them," they say.
Industrial pharmacist Cheryl Chia, 38, and her husband Sven Lentzen, 37, have found a good spot near Suntec City for the family to catch the mobile column when it passes by on the way to the Padang.
"We came early to get a good spot as my son Matthew is a fan of the military. We went to Kallang Leisure Park this morning to see them up close and talk to the soldiers who drive the tanks and they told us they would be here. We live in the Netherlands now but we are back for the summer and it being SG50 makes it even more special," Ms Chia said.