21 November 2023

Local businesses bring midnight fireworks back to Wollongong for New Year's celebrations

| Keeli Royle
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Ryan Aitchison outside the Illawarra.

Ryan Aitchison is bringing back the midnight fireworks to Wollongong. Photo: Keeli Royle.

Wollongong businesses will bring in the new year with a bang by lighting up the sky with an official midnight fireworks display in the CBD.

The spectacular addition to celebrations, which was made possible by the Illawarra Hotel publican and Smith Street Distillery owner Ryan Aitchison, aims to reinvigorate the area and create affordable opportunities on what should be the biggest night of the year.

There’s some great ticketed events on for New Year’s around Wollongong and they all do really well but as far as building that stable patron flow, the CBD can do better,” Ryan said.

“New Year in a city should be massive, the streets should be full of people, but you walk around Wollongong CBD on a New Year’s and it’s like some Saturdays are busier than this.”

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The display will be launched from the carpark of Wollongong Central shopping centre and be visible right across the city, with vantage points at popular venues including Humber, La La Las, Bevanda Bar, the Prince and, of course, Market Street at the Illawarra Hotel’s block party.

Ryan said the hospitality sector in the precinct has worked together to find opportunities to support each other and drive customers to the area across all venues, not just one specifically, and in turn it has helped local suppliers, distilleries and breweries.

“We’ve got a shared objective just to bring people to this city,” he said.

“These businesses have supported Smith Street Distillery, which is our distillery that is funding it all, and they’re the driving force behind it.”

“So even though the distillery is funding it technically they’ve funded the distillery with all of their support.”

Fireworks at night.

The skies around Wollongong will light up at midnight on NYE. Photo: iStock/Robert Mueller Photographie.

He hoped increasing the reputation of Wollongong CBD as a place with a variety of venues would help encourage people to travel in for the big night, like many do around capital cities.

“The amount of people that go into Sydney for New Year’s, a lot of them aren’t booking tickets to places, they just know it’s going to be a good experience so they just go and look at where’s good, drop into different venues and make a night of it.”

The additional fireworks also aim to give people the extra motivation to stay out later and have another option after the annual fireworks at Wollongong Harbour, which has finished at 9 pm for more than a decade.

“You could get a cab into the harbour, grab some fish and chips or something like that, watch the fireworks there because it’s a beautiful spot and if you slowly progress all the way up the mall to here, I can guarantee you that you’ll have an incredible New Year.”

“That transient crowd and going to the whole variety of different venues, there’s some great bars along the way, none that I know of are charging crazy amounts to get in, I think we all want to play the volume game, we don’t want to scare people off.”

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More than a thousand people are expected to fill the streets around The Illawarra Hotel alone at their New Year’s Block Party, all wearing headphones for an incredible and unique experience.

“That whole street will be transformed into a massive silent disco, there will be three big scaffold towers with three different DJs on there and then we will have live bands inside.”

“We basically wanted to put on all of our best elements that we do into one night.”

And they’re committed to keeping the prices low for the event, to help the community create memories without breaking the bank, and allowing them to explore all the city has to offer.

“We’re doing free before 7 pm, we really just want to encourage people to come out and jump in between venues.”

To stay up to date on the plans for Market Street Block Party visit the Illawarra Hotel website or Facebook page.

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