Life ad­vice

Why For­tu­nato Foti’s New Year’s Eve truly goes off with a bang.

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents -

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? A party? Maybe a pic­nic at the beach? Well, I can tell you where I’ll be, but you might not be­lieve me. Come mid­night, I’ll be sit­ting atop the Sydney Har­bour Bridge, watch­ing the fire­works sparkle right above me. There’s no deny­ing it: I’ve got the best seat in the house.

You could say it’s an un­con­ven­tional job, but it’s all I’ve ever known. My fam­ily has been in the fire­works game since 1793. Fol­low­ing in their foot­steps was never ex­pected of me – it’s en­tirely by choice. When you have to give up your week­ends and pub­lic hol­i­days, you have to love it.

It’s not some­thing that you can learn at univer­sity or TAFE, so it’s a skill that has to be passed down. I was for­tu­nate enough to have both my fa­ther and grand­fa­ther teach me the trade. Brothers, cousins, un­cles, nieces and neph­ews all now make up our team, and our teams across the world; I have maybe 20 cousins still work­ing in the in­dus­try in Italy. My three kids – who are 24, 21 and 18 – have helped us for the past few years, but we’ll see if they ever want to do it full-time. We won’t push them.

I haven’t had a New Year’s Eve off for 35 years, so for me it’s just an­other day at work. Sure, af­ter­wards, while other peo­ple are cel­e­brat­ing and pop­ping cham­pagne, I’m clean­ing up un­til 6am, but that doesn’t bother me. It’s at least eight months’ prepa­ra­tion for those 12 min­utes at mid­night – from de­sign­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing to chore­ograph­ing the fire­works with mu­sic. The ac­tual day is quite calm. Ev­ery­thing is dig­i­tal now, so it’s a mat­ter of mak­ing sure com­puter sys­tems run smoothly. We’ve done it so many times that it’s a welloiled ma­chine – and a very safe op­er­a­tion. I don’t wear har­nesses on top of the bridge though, so I think my wife breathes a sigh of re­lief when I come home af­ter­wards. All fin­gers, all toes.

Through­out the year we do other large-scale events – State of Ori­gin, the ARIAS, Michael Bublé con­certs – and we used to do Mel­bourne’s New Year’s Eve fire­works. For the naysay­ers out there that reckon it’s a waste of money, it’s im­por­tant to keep in mind that the fire­works dis­play brings roughly $130 mil­lion into the econ­omy ev­ery year. So you’re get­ting back the money that was spent ten­fold – plus, can you re­ally put a price on hap­pi­ness? I don’t think peo­ple will ever get sick of fire­works. There’s too much nos­tal­gia at­tached.

I don’t know what I’d do in an­other life – I wouldn’t change any­thing. I love the beauty of the fire­works, and the noise. But my favourite part is right at the end, when the last fire­work has fiz­zled out, the smoke is clear­ing and the crowds are cheer­ing – a whole 1.5 mil­lion of them. That’s the mo­ment I know I’ve done my job.

“I haven’t had a New Year’s Eve off for 35 years. For me it’s just an­other day at work”

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