March 21, 2010 at 2:03 am (general life, Mental illness)

SkyFire is a word familiar to every Canberran.

Every March, the radio station FM 104.7 hosts a massive free fireworks event that can be viewed from all around our main central lake (acting like a huge natural amphitheatre). Cars fill roundabouts, traffic islands, and  every scrap of dirt for kilometres in every direction. The shores of the lake sparkle with glow-sticks in blue, pink, yellow and orange. People gather throughout the day, and picnic in one giant mass as the sun sets.

Fireworks start at 8pm, and traffic is deadlocked for an hour before and afterwards.

Skyfire is a scary thing for a mental such as myself – even going to church is scary (because there are “lots” of people – perhaps one or two hundred). I spent a large chunk of yesterday with a stress-headache, lying in bed wishing I could calm down enough to read the excellent book sitting beside me. I thought about giving it a miss this year – but I think that every year.

We left around 6:30, surprised and pleased that a friend visiting town was able to come with us (that helped me considerably – she is someone I consider “safe” along with perhaps ten others on earth). We’d already stocked up on a ridiculous pile of lollies (Maltesers, Mars pods, natural confectionary party mix, and Lindt intense orange – plus our friend brought Starburst fruits and red frogs), which is always good for calming me down, especially when the thing that’s scaring me is that I’m meant to be happy.

The sunset last night was beautiful – one of those ones that fills the sky. There’s been a lot of smoke around Canberra lately because of backburning (burning fire-prone areas so if a fire happens it dies out for lack of fuel), but that just made the sky prettier.

We settled down on a grassy slope at the lake end of Anzac Parade, looking across to the many 104.7 barges, and Parliament House (and more crowds) on the other side. This is a particularly good area for families, with a festival atmosphere, some extremely sought-after public toilets, shops selling greasy deliciousness, and very few drunkards (they tend to gather near the exclusive VIP area, making the most of free performances – Vanessa Amorosi performed this year).

The family in front of us was playing cricket, and the family behind us was attempting to join glow-sticks together to make hula hoops. Both overlapped onto us frequently, but that only added to the feeling of being part of one giant picnic.

It’s both extremely expensive (for the organisers) and free (for everyone else, except the VIPs) and it’s just a brilliant and expertly-designed event.

The concept behind the event is that the fireworks are programmed to be in sync with a soundtrack designed during the previous year (including lots of recent hits, very heavily leaning toward the happy and party-like). We didn’t need to bring a radio, because very powerful speakers were set up everywhere.

The first song was “Feeling Good” and the fireworks built slowly to crescendo at the chorus.

Later on they had a “Lady Gaga” medly (fairly short, since they left out all the rude bits) and they used shaped fireworks that exploded in cubes (no reason but freakish to see), sunnies (for the lady herself), and faces for “Poker Face”. When she was singing, “Let’s Dance” they used fireworks that move in random directions after the initial explosion – like dancing fireflies.

On another song (the “End of the World” I think) it has a line about, “Look up and see the stars exploding” and they used all yellow and white fireworks for that bit. Later it had fireworks that fell in hundreds of tiny comets – all with their own flaming tail.

It’s a freakin’ brilliant night, and I love three things:

1. Poor people (including poor families) get a seriously good night out.

2. Everything is done well (it’s planned for over a year).

3. Once, in the distant past, someone sat in a room and had an idea. . . and SkyFire was born from that small moment.

Driving away took a while, but everyone was very understanding (stopping for pedestrians and ignoring normal road rules to let cars in who would otherwise have been stuck for hours). We did see two accidents on the way home, but no-one was hurt.


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