Hours before Vladimir Putin was even set to turn up, tens of thousands of people were streaming towards Moscow's Luzhniki stadium.
And along one road outside, two long rows of buses parked for as far as the eye could see.
It's par for the course and has been since Soviet times that employees for state companies are bussed in for events like this and today was no exception.
"We came from university, we were told to come and we're here," said 23-year-old Liuba. "They told us there would be a concert."
She wasn't sure the Russian president would definitely show and didn't care much either way.
I asked if she minded being instructed to come to an event which would then be used as a patriotic moment on state TV.
"It's politics, we live in this kind of a country," she replied. "They say one thing but the reality is different. If someone isn't happy with that they leave for another country."
It was a freezing cold day - a big ask to get people to come. Hundreds were already streaming out before the president even appeared but the prevailing mood, nonetheless, was staunchly patriotic.
"I've experienced a few wars and I've just been in hospital to visit our boys," said Dinara Yakusheva, a former medic who wore a collection of military medals proudly on her chest.
"I think everyone should honour this holiday for them. Look at how heroic they are! Let's live in peace all over the world."
We met Alexander Zaldastanov, better known as "Surgeon", the head of the Night Wolves biker club which has been known to ride with Putin.
"I wish you to get rid of the American yoke," he yelled, when we told him we were from Sky News.
Vladimir Putin, as ever, came in to thunderous applause. It's the kind of event he loves. A stadium filled with the Russian tricolour flag, music blaring, and a hero's welcome - a man of the people moment which is an image he likes to present.
And more to the point, it looks good on state TV, to the millions across the country who aren't there.
"Right now there is a battle on our historical frontiers for our people," the president said.
"They fight heroically, courageously, bravely, we are proud of them, and in their honour, three times - hooray!" The crowd hurrahed enthusiastically.
An extraordinary moment on stage too.
A group of children the West would say were abducted by Russia from the streets of bombed-out Mariupol, here described as liberated.
The soldier who helped them, 367 in all, was feted in what was a touching scene, with the children, all of different ages, hugging him on stage.
It speaks to the way both sides see this terrible conflict - through a glass darkly. With little chance on either side that those sentiments will change.