NEW YORK: About 4,900 Singaporeans turned up in New York on Saturday to 'mingle and makan' at the fifth Singapore Day.
The $4 million cost of staging the event, however, has raised questions.
Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who was at the event, said: 'There's a value to helping our Singaporeans remember their roots so that if they ever go back, it's easier for them to adjust. You can't put a price on that.'
US-based Singaporeans, who made their way to the event by plane, car or bus, queued patiently for a chance to savour familiar hawker fare such as chicken rice and roti prata.
'This is macam like Disney World,' said host Hossan Leong, referring to the long lines in the middle of Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
Someone in the crowd shot back: 'How can Mickey Mouse even compare to chicken rice?'
This is the second time the event has been held in New York, the venue for the first Singapore Day in 2007.
It was moved to Melbourne in 2008, London in 2009 and Shanghai last year.
The event is organised by the Overseas Singaporean Unit (OSU), which is under the Prime Minister's Office.
The organisers have spent more than $20 million to stage all the Singapore Day events with the aim of engaging more than 190,000 Singaporeans who live abroad.
But the cost has raised eyebrows among some people, including overseas Singaporeans themselves.
Massachusetts-based Liang Kaicheng wrote to The Straits Times Forum Page on Saturday questioning the need 'to spend such a considerable sum to woo overseas Singaporeans home and boost the local talent pool'.
Said Dr Khor: 'One of the reasons we had (Singapore Day) was that a lot of Singaporeans asked if there was some way we can show they are remembered and as a way to keep in touch.'
Mr Daryl Eng, 22, a student at Brown University, feels the cost can be reduced.
'Some things must be spent on, but there were some peripheral things that we probably didn't need, like the bus stop decoration piece in the middle of the park.'
'Still, it was a good place for Singaporeans to be reminded of home,' he said.
The theme for this year's Singapore Day is 'My Home, My Future'.
On Saturday, Singaporeans tucking into their favourite hawker fare were entertained by celebrities Michelle Chong and Chua En Lai, of hit TV show The Noose, and indie band The Great Spy Experiment.
They also met the guest of honour, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is the Minister-in-charge of the National Population and Talent Division.
In his remarks, DPM Teo highlighted the need for an inclusive society and a stronger Singapore.
He reminded Singaporeans that amid the changes evident in Singapore's transformation into a modern and attractive global city, the city remained their home and a place for them to build their future, according to a statement from OSU.
He said he hoped that Singapore Day would bring Singaporeans closer, to enjoy a slice of home together, and that it would foster close-knit Singaporean communities around the world.
Mr Teo visited the booths set up by the Defence Ministry and the Housing Board, and also showed off his moves in a Mambo Jambo session organised by Zouk Singapore.
Participants had a chance to take photos with Mr Yam Ah Mee, the chief executive director of the People's Association. Mr Yam, who was the returning officer at last year's general election, became an online star for his deadpan delivery of the election results.
'Singapore Day 2012 is a joint effort made possible by the support of our partners from the private, public and people sectors. We hope that Singaporeans have enjoyed the slice of home brought to them in the heart of New York, and will continue to remain connected to home and with one another,' said OSU director Wong Kan Foo.
Mr Cheng Kong Sang of Toa Payoh Rojak said he felt honoured to be part of Singapore Day again after his first experience in 2009 in London.
The 81-year-old, who served up 1,500 plates of rojak with his son-in-law Lim Swee Seng on Saturday, said he was very happy to travel halfway across the world to give Singaporeans a taste of his signature rojak.
Postgraduate student Crystal Neo, 26, said she enjoyed the sights and sounds of home.
'I really missed local food such as chicken rice and black pepper crab. Singapore Day reminds me of home, tucking into yummy hawker fare and hearing Singaporean accents all around.'
Said manager Tan Seet Hong, 37, who has lived abroad for seven years and plans to return to Singapore soon: 'This is a good reminder that Singapore is truly home, lah.'
-- Straits Times