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Nation to Celebrate 95th Anniversary With Parade, Snapshots and 'Freedom Shake'

Flags will be flying across Estonia on Sunday as the nation marks the 95th anniversary of its independence.

Official events connected with Independence Day will in fact begin Saturday, with the solemn wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of Estonian state figures, such as prewar president Konstantin Päts, at Tallinn's Metsakalmistu at 11:00.

At 13:00 the same day, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves will hand out this year's state decorations at the Kadriorg Art Museum.

Sunday's activity will start bright and early, at 07:33, with the traditional flag-raising ceremony at Pikk Herman Tower on Toompea Hill in Tallinn. Both the president and Prime Minister Andrus Ansip will be on hand for that event.

Shortly afterward, at 09:00, they and other officials will be present as wreaths are laid at the War of Independence monument on Tallinn's Freedom Square.

The largest public event of the day, the much-anticipated Defense Forces parade, starts on the square at 12:00. Nearly 1,100 soldiers, Defense League members and Defense Academy cadets will be on the march, accompanied by the military's latest rolling hardware.

Speeches and singing will last until 12:35, at which time the soldiers will begin moving along Kaarli Puiestee, Pärnu Maantee and Mere Puiestee before heading off towards north Tallinn. At some point the event will involve a flyover by the Danish F-16 fighter jets that are currently active as part of NATO's Baltic air policing mission. The event ends at 13:00, though the battle machines will remain on the square for the interested public to inspect.

The end of the parade also marks the beginning of a one-minute, nation-wide photo contest called Eesti Minut, where anyone with a camera is invited to attempt to capture the moment the country turns 95.

At 18:00, television viewers can switch on ETV to see the day's second main event: the Independence Day concert and formal reception hosted by the president and the first lady. Around 300 guests will be on hand for the gala gathering at the Estonia Theater.

After delivering his traditional Independence Day speech, the president, accompanied by Mrs. Ilves, will greet the guests in couples - a process colloquially dubbed the "Penguins' Parade" as it involves so many tuxedos.

Those not interested in the fashion choices of the older generation can join the youth back on Freedom Square at 18:00 for a mass dance event called Freedom Shake. Based on the "Harlem Shake" phenomenon that has been taking YouTube by storm this month, Freedom Shake is designed to celebrate Independence Day by creating a 60-second video of a large crowd of young people free-form dancing while waving Estonian flags and wearing wild costumes. As of Friday afternoon, the event's Facebook page showed just over 1,000 people planning to attend.

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