Sunday, January 4

Once were fireworks

There were fireworks to welcome in 2009 in lots of places around the world, many of them quite spectacular, London and Sydney for example. (The great thing about the web is you can get to see them on YouTube.)
Well in years gone by Rarotonga also had new year pyrotechnic displays but ours were a little different from the rest of the world’s. Naturally.
They were organised by Geoff Bergin and the first one was, I think, in 2000. It wasn’t actually on New Year’s Eve but either the first or second of January; the idea was that welcoming the new year was a family thing and the fireworks were an extra entertainment to keep the kids happy when they might otherwise have started getting bored. Geoff set up the display on the roof of the Empire Theatre and although I didn’t see this one it was popular enough for him to organise one the following year. This time Geoff and a couple of helpers used the top of a container parked in the area that now houses the Chinese courthouse. (That was kind of appropriate considering that the original courthouse on that site was burned down in the early 1990s in a blaze that also took the post office and government cabinet rooms.)
The next year the fireworks were arranged on a platform in the lagoon and spectators packed Maire Nui drive. There was also a great view from Trader Jacks. The problem with using the lagoon is that high tides and rough seas as well as bad weather could all affect the fireworks and if they got wet it took several days to dry them out. Later displays were set up on the foreshore with flight paths aimed out over the lagoon so the sea was no longer a problem but wind and weather could still create havoc.
The display couldn’t take place if it was raining or if the wind was blowing towards the shore or harbour. One ‘new year’ show actually didn’t occur until February because of bad weather! And once we had two halves punctuated by the arrival of an Air New Zealand plane.
Only in the Cook Islands.
Meanwhile Geoff had an enormous amount of work setting up the display with only a couple of helpers. He also spent time seeking sponsorship from local businesses and occasionally the government. He said he even got blamed when the weather was bad and things had to be postponed. Sad to report, he eventually flagged it away. He still does smaller shows for private functions and I believe one of the hotels or restaurants had new- year-welcome fireworks but the public extravaganzas are a thing of the past.
(The video is a compilation of several years’ worth of fireworks.)