VISITORS to this year's River Hongbao can expect to see the largest lantern display ever held on the floating platform at Marina Bay.
The 88 groups of lanterns, from Chengdu, will be on display from Feb 12 to 20 - the 24th year of the celebrations that take place over Chinese New Year.
The lanterns will be some of the most spectacular ever displayed at River Hongbao, said the organising committee's chairman, Mr Liang Eng Hwa, yesterday. The largest one is about 18m tall, the Member of Parliament for Holland- Bukit Timah GRC said.
Other than displaying lanterns of the familiar God of Fortune and the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, the exhibition will feature lanterns made of sugar and porcelain spoons.
Some of them will be mechanised and interactive.
More than 180 people from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, will be involved in staging River Hongbao this year.
This is the first time that the organising committee has roped in the Chengdu city government to participate in the Chinese New Year festivities here.
Both parties signed a memorandum of understanding for this collaboration on Nov 10 last year.
Normally, the River Hongbao organising committee sub-contracts the work to third parties, such as creative-design firms and performing troupes.
The five key organisers for this event are Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, People's Association, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Singapore Tourism Board.
With the high level of involvement of the Chengdu people this year, the tally of visitors from the sub-provincial city for the event is expected to hit 300.
They will bring a second highlight to this year's gala event: A food fair featuring mostly Sichuan food.
More than 30 kitchen staff are being flown in to prepare up to 50 different Chengdu specialities, said Mr Lim Huan Chiang, vice-president of SPH's cultural- industry promotion department.
Performances will also be held on every night of the nine-day fiesta, put up by 45 performers from Chengdu, 40 from Taiwan, and others from Singapore.
The organising committee hopes that this year's event will attract more than 300,000 visitors, up from last year's estimated 150,000 to 200,000.
Invited residents from Singapore's five districts can also take free shuttle services to the event.
Details will be announced later this month.
This is the second year that River Hongbao will be held at The Float@Marina Bay.
But the opening hours will be extended this year. The venue will open at noon daily, instead of the previous year's 6pm, to accommodate visitors who might want to catch a glimpse of the lanterns in the day, said Mr Liang.
The venue will close at 11.30pm, with the exception of the night of the countdown to Chinese New Year, on Feb 13.
Talks are ongoing with City Tours - a private sightseeing and transportation company that runs a free shuttle service from the airport to town - for tourists who have more than five hours in transit in Singapore to visit River Hongbao.
Mr Liang said that the organising committee will control human traffic on the platform more strictly, because the many lanterns on the platform will weigh more than those in previous years, and affect the platform's capacity.
He said: "We will be more stringent than last year. There will be safety officers at the entrances to make sure that visitor capacity is not exceeded."
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