Creativity on wheels: Meet the father-daughter duo behind the Chingay Community Floats

Most Singaporeans would associate Chingay with the street parades held as part of the Lunar New Year festivities. For Jesse Leong and her father, Leong Yew Thong, the Chingay Parade has a personal significance.

  • 19 Feb 2024

Jesse Leong (right) and her father, Leong Yew Thong (left) with their community float: Dandelion Dream.

36-year-old Jesse has been a visual artist since she was 18. She teaches and practices her craft across a variety of mediums, with sculpture reigning as her primary expertise. Since her dad retired 7 years ago, he has been her trusty “partner-in-art”.  

For the past 3 years, they have been creating Chingay community floats – elaborately decorated sculptures that form one of the parade’s highlights. These Community Floats, co-created by residents, along with the larger floats will move along main roads and into selected heartlands, lighting up their neighbourhoods. 

The inspiration behind their Chingay 2024 float: Dandelion Dream

Large hand-painted acrylic balls are attached to metal rods on the float, represent Singaporeans coming together as one.

Chingay 2024 theme “Blossom” signifies the growth and transformation of not only individuals but also communities coming together. With this in mind, Jesse conceptualised her float and named it “Dandelion Dream”. 

To create the float, large painted acrylic balls were attached to artfully twisted metal rods. Little dots were hand-painted onto these balls, representing Singaporeans coming together as one. Colourful ping pong balls fill the dandelion centrepiece, which is fitted with a blower. When switched on, the ping pong balls are buffeted by gusts of air, giving the effect of dandelion seeds being blown in the wind. 

I chose dandelions because these flowers thrive in adverse conditions and I wanted our float to represent hope, growth, and resilience.

“My work usually revolves around resilience. I’d say resilience is one of my core values in life and as an artist,” Jesse shares.

Working as a father-daughter duo

When working on a project, Jesse dreams up the design and colours, and her dad brings her ideas to life. Here, Mr Leong’s background in Engineering comes in handy.

“Before working with my dad, my installations were mostly 2D. They were very flat mosaic pieces and I had to hire contractors. But now I have my dad, and he takes over the execution work. He’s like Superman – everything also can do.”

When asked what it’s like to work for his daughter, Mr Leong is quick to correct that it is a collaborative effort, “She’s not my boss!” 

Mr Leong's background in engineering has helped to bring Jesse's ideas to life.

While disagreements occasionally occur, they rarely escalate into full-blown arguments. That’s because the father-daughter duo know they are playing for the same team. More importantly, they appreciate and recognise each other’s skills.

“The main challenge when building the float is to make sure we have enough time. If we bicker, it’s usually about the speed of completion. But my dad keeps me on track,” Jesse explains.

“I’m more of a ‘chop chop’ person whereas she’s a very detail-oriented person. She is a perfectionist and is very meticulous… However, I must say, she doesn’t have a very neat room,” he teases.

“We understand and work together very well so the process is always more or less smooth. Being able to work with my dad is a blessing. There is nothing better than working with someone close that you can trust,” Jesse muses.

Engaging the local community to create Chingay Parade floats


Jesse with volunteers fromTampines-GRC volunteers who helped to paint the acrylic balls.

Making a float is extremely labour-intensive and time-consuming. However, Jesse firmly believes that art can be for everyone and anyone. To turn her float into reality, Jesse and her father worked with almost 50 local volunteers from Tampines GRC. These volunteers comprised families with children, young couples, and seniors who were tasked with painting the acrylic balls and cutting fabric flowers. 

To accommodate volunteers with no art background, Jesse used stencils fashioned from recycled materials to simplify the process. 

In the time it took for the float to be constructed, Jesse and the volunteers got closer to one another. “We can share about life and talk about anything and everything. There was one elderly couple that came down, very cute, got white hair already. The ah ma talked to me about food and gave me recommendations. 

It’s very heartwarming to see how art can bring people and families together like how it has helped me become closer to my dad,” Jesse shares.

What it means to be part of Chingay

Having built multiple community floats has given her a newfound appreciation for the annual Chingay parades. 

“Before being involved in Chingay, I only ever watched it at home on television. Seeing the pretty lights and colours was like, ‘Oh, nice’ and that’s it,” she reflects. 

“Now, as we’re working on it, you feel a sense of pride. You feel so satisfied when people praise the details and give positive comments. Like, wow…people actually appreciate our work.

That makes us very happy and fulfilled. And you feel even more proud that Singapore has such events that bring people together of all races, young and old.”