SINGAPORE: Visitors to the River Hongbao can look forward to more fireworks this year.
Pyrotechnic experts from Australia, USA, Italy, and China will light the Singapore skyline with 12 minutes of fireworks over four nights, each with different themes. That's four times the usual three-minute display.
The local fireworks team will also be charting the history of Singapore in the sky through 3-minute fireworks shows on four other days during the event.
The festivities from Feb 3 to 10, coinciding with Chinese New Year, are set to be among the grandest in recent years.
Organisers said they are spending a third more than last year, although they declined give the exact cost.
They have also snared double the number of corporate sponsors, and would require five times more volunteers each night for this Singapore Bicentennial edition.
This year marks the 200th year Sir Stamford Raffles landed on Singapore and a series of events have been planned to mark the turning point in Singapore's history.
"We have pulled out all the stops to make it a stand-out celebration," said Mr Ang Wei Neng, chairman of the River Hongbao organising committee.
EXHIBITION ON "JUNK BOAT"
A massive junk boat structure that contains an interactive bicentennial exhibition will stand beside the Singapore River.
There, visitors will learn of the changes in the Singapore River through time. It will also feature a short animation on Singapore’s history from 1820-1920 that is being produced by local company, Robot Playground Media.
The Teochew, Khek, Cantonese, and Hokkien communities will show their traditional trades, or contributions to Singapore. That’s a first for these dialect groups, whose handicraft and wares will be found along the Food Street.
As for the lanterns display, a hallmark of River Hongbao – it will return even bigger than before. The centrepiece is a 60m long lantern Our Garden, Our Home, featuring the UNESCO-listed Botanic Gardens, along with scenes from the founding of modern Singapore. It will join existing favourites such as the god of fortune and the Chinese zodiac.
The organising committee is also pushing hard to attract a younger crowd. Online games, a photography competition, and an Instagram challenge are all part of their bid to woo the young.
Vice-chairman of the committee Henry Kwek said that the goal is to make River Hongbao "relevant to the new generation".
In addition to the exhibitions and competitions, the organising committee has lined up stage performances featuring both international and local talent.
"This year, we really want to focus on two things. One is to spread the Bicentennial message. Second of all, is to attract more young Singaporeans to understand this important part of Singaporean Chinese culture," said Mr Kwek.
Admission is free for the River Hongbao 2019, which will run from Feb 3 to Feb 10, 2pm to 11pm daily at the Float @ Marina Bay. It will open till 1am on Feb 4, the eve of Chinese New Year.
Held since 1987, River Hongbao has seen about 1.5 to 2 million visitors in previous years, and is expecting more than a million this year.