Friday 9 December 2016

Foti's Fireworks

When you think of New Year’s Eve celebrations, you think of fireworks, in particular the spectacular Sydney Harbour New Year fireworks display that is seen by over a billion people globally.
It might be surprising for many to discover that the company behind these fireworks since 1997, Foti International Fireworks, had its humble beginnings in Menangle Park.
The Foti Family has a family tradition of making fireworks in Italy dating from 1793, Celestino (Charles) Foti first came to Australia as a prisoner of war in World War II and was interned as a POW at Cowra. Returning to Australia as an immigrant in 1951, he began working in the Vulcan fireworks factory at Menangle Park, his sons Sam and Vince later joining him.
The Menangle factory had originally started its life in the Soldiers Settlement, with Bill Simpson purchasing the land in Macquarie Avenue for £3000 and using the existing poultry sheds to start a “cracker” factory. During the time the factory was in Macquarie Avenue, numerous fires and explosions happened, but were of little danger to the community and confined to the property. However in 1956 it was decided to move the factory to Menangle Park.

Whilst working for Vulcan Fireworks in Menangle Park during the ’50s and 60s, Celestino Foti made the fireworks enjoyed by generations of Australians at Queen’s Birthday celebrations whilst continuing his family’s tradition of display fireworks. The displays he performed were mostly for the local Sydney Italian community’s religious celebrations, as well as for local Agricultural Show Societies.

In 1969, Celestino, with his son Sam, bought Vulcan Fireworks, and thus International Fireworks was born (the name Foti was added later). The Foti's re-invented their business, developing pyrotechnic displays instead of volume firework sales. In 1983 Fortunato Foti began working full-time in the family business, with Grandfather Charles, father Sam and Uncle Vince, three generations of the family working together to continue the Foti family tradition of fireworks.

Fortunato, Sam, and Charles Foti. (Photo courtesy Macarthur Advertiser 4.3.1987)
Almost every firework spectacular that happened in the Macarthur region at one time was produced by the Foti family, with one time Executive Director of the Fisher’s Ghost Festivals John Leary, remembering mild mannered Celestino (Charles) quietly checking every device for effectiveness and safety. “Each year he would wander out onto the centre ring of the show or down into the bed of Fisher’s Ghost Creek for the festival to confirm all was well before the display was fired. Celestino, a man of few words, used to say “John, don’t worry it will be a good display”, and it always was”.
In 1987 the manufacturing facility is moved from Menangle Park to Leppington and the business continues to grow - they win International awards, are asked to co-present the 1997 Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks and they are awarded the contract as the official Pyrotechnic Consultants, Designers and Suppliers for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
After co-presenting the New Year’s Eve fireworks since 1997, Foti International are awarded the entire contract for Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks after the contract is put out to open tender for the first time. Foti have produced every Sydney New Year’s Fireworks display since and will continue to do so until at least New Years Eve 2016/17.

Written by Samantha Stevenson.

Grist Mills Vol 25 No 2 July 2012 - Fireworks in Campbelltown
Macarthur Advertiser 4.3.1987

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