As a former editor of Samoa's then only weekly newspaper from 1951-58, and someone who was present at its first independence day in 1962, I couldn't resist being there for the 50th anniversary.
Main impressions? National pride (totally justified) and unadulterated joy, backed with flawless clockwork organisation that ran pretty much to timetable, after an early morning start that required guests to be in their seats by 6am.
A special grandstand had been erected of permanent materials to screen some 2000 invited guests from the sun, or rain had it occurred. The stand's roof extended over a sealed road between the front seats and the malae, so cars carrying the heads of neighbouring island states, the King and Queen of Tonga, the Governor-General of New Zealand, Sir Jerry Mataparae, and finally Samoa's own head of state were able to emerge from their cars a few steps from their seats, and under cover.
After a prolonged welcome prayer by senior Methodist pastor, and a thoughtful address by the head of state, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese, came the formal raising of the Samoan flag by A'eau Ta'alupo'o. He was the last surviving signatory to the constitution document finalised by a convention of (matai) chiefs in 1960. This was accompanied by a rousing mass singing of the national anthem, Samoa Tula'i.
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During a short break before a march-past, all 2000 seated guests were each served small bottles of water, then orange drinks to accompany a morning snack packed in a handy polythene box. Half an hour after that distribution, the young Samoan adults, smartly dressed in island-style uniforms, were back on the job with large plastic bags to collect the empty containers.
The march-past was a colourful and joyous spectacle that included every school on the main island of Upolu and most from the neighbouring island of Savai'i, as well as government departments and agencies, community, sports and church groups, bands from the Samoan police, New Zealand, Australian and US navies, and local church groups. They paraded in front of the grandstand, greeting their leaders and the visiting dignitaries with banners, flags, salutes, or songs and an occasional brief dance. It took 3-hours for the 172 groups to pass.
Smiles and handclaps prevailed during what became a long programme lasting 6-hours, but there were no signs of boredom, or impatience on our stand, as camera-toting onlookers eased themselves toward the front to get a shot of a favourite group. And, among the locals, there was obvious pride in what they and their island state have achieved in the past 50 years; every part of the celebration planned and implemented with precise efficiency that bodes well for their next half-century.