KOTA KINABALU: Thousands thronged Padang Merdeka here last evening to celebrate the national-level Tadau Kaamatan or Harvest Festival.
The event, indigenous to the Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus communities, was made even more meaningful for the crowd as many managed to catch a glimpse or shook hands with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah Almarhum Tengku Abdul Rashid who graced the occasion.
The festivities began at 5.30pm when buffet tables set up in tents were open to the public.
Among the local delicacies served were kuih pajaram, kuih cincin, satay as well as fried noodles and nasi lemak.
Just before the arrival of the King and Queen, there was only standing room in the area.
Enthusiastic applause greeted the King and Queen as they were met upon arrival at Padang Merdeka by Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman and Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir.
Also present was Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negri Datuk Ahmadshah Abdullah.
As they proceeded to their seats, the crowd reached out to shake hands with the royal couple who responded, occasionally waving to those they could not reach out to.
The King and Queen then toured the traditional houses of the Kadazandusun, Rungus and Murut communities before proceeding to the grandstand as the evenings events got underway.
In his speech, Kadir said the Governments move to elevate the Kaamatan and Gawai festivities into national celebrations had resulted in more awareness in the peninsula about Sabah's and Sarawaks ethnic groups.
Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said the national Kaamatan celebration would enrich the countrys cultural heritage and strengthen the bonds among Malaysians.
The evenings performances began with popular songbird Siti Nurhaliza, who joined Sabahan singers to belt out two Kadazandusun songs, Kasakazan Do Bambazon and Tadau Tagazo Do Kaamatan.
This was followed by the traditional dances of Sabahs ethnic communities.
Contestants for this years Unduk Ngadau or Harvest Queen pageant also made an appearance.
A 30-minute fireworks display rounded up the festivities.