AS MADAM Linda Low and Madam Gladys Tan strolled through the Straits Times Appreciates Readers (Star) carnival yesterday, they marvelled that the event had been put together by a newspaper.
'This is certainly something new,' said Madam Tan, 59, casting her eye over the booths where readers were having their pictures taken by Straits Times (ST) photographers and their caricatures drawn by the paper's artists.
'Maybe we will meet Sumiko Tan,' chimed in Madam Low, also 59, referring to the ST news editor who is also one of the paper's most popular columnists.
Thousands joined the two women at the carnival, which coincided with ST's 167th birthday and was held at the newly opened Gardens by the Bay. The first-ever Star concert followed that night.
Despite sporadic drizzle in the early part of the afternoon, the weather held up. Long lines grew for free ice cream and cotton candy, and for picture opportunities with cosplayers who turned up for a contest organised by the Life! section.
Loyal ST readers waited for their favourite artists to draw their caricatures for $15, money that went to the ST School Pocket Money Fund. At another booth, readers posed for pictures printed onto The Straits Times' masthead - for their very own Page One.
Some readers also tried their hand at writing headlines for a picture of two nuzzling giraffes.
Sponsors and supporters of the paper also set up booths, including Resorts World Sentosa, Panasonic and Volkswagen, and these were all packed with visitors too.
Singapore Press Holdings chairman Lee Boon Yang said that he was delighted with the event.
'It's wonderful to know that there is such a huge community of ST readers happy to come out and celebrate our anniversary with us,' he said.
It was particularly gratifying to see young readers out in force, he added. 'We hope through this, we can reach out also to people who have yet to become our readers and persuade them to join this community.'
ST editor Warren Fernandez said that the success of the concert and carnival was a signal that The Straits Times should continue to organise similar events to connect with its readers, and show its appreciation for their support.
'We will have to find a variety of ways to do this, as we serve over 1.3 million people every day, and they have a wide range of interests,' he added.
Full-time national serviceman Choy Seng Hean, 21, said that the Star concert would help ST reach younger Singaporeans. 'Reading ST is already a daily habit for me. That won't ever change,' he said.