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25th Macau Fireworks Contest: celebrating with a bang

Yuci Tai
Written by Yuci Tai

This article first appeared in the Sep/Oct 2013 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Mid September to the October 1 China National Day holiday is the annual fireworks season in Macau, and thousands of locals and tourists alike join in the spectacle. The 25th Macau International Fireworks Display Contest will take place on September 14, 19, 21 and 28 with its grand finale on October 1, celebrating the contest’s Silver Jubilee. World Gaming looks back at 25 years of this spectacle of the sky as well as what to expect in 2013.

\[i]F[/i]reworks images: GCS[/i]

Fireworks images: GCS

ORIGINS OF THE CONTEST

The fireworks industry has a long and proud history in both China and Portugal, so it comes as no surprise to learn it used to be one of the major handicrafts industries in the former Portuguese colony of Macau. With this in mind, the Tourism Department of Macau organized the annual Macau International Fireworks Display Contest, paying tribute to this cultural heritage and continuing the proud Macau fireworks tradition.

The first Macau International Fireworks Display Contest was staged in September 1989, as a prelude to the celebration of Portuguese Republic Day. In the early years only five teams participated but as the contest’s popularity grew the number of teams doubled to 10 in 1993. From 2005, the teams were required to accompany their performances with music. The Macau Post Office issued Macau International Fireworks Display Contest-themed stamps commemorating the event in 2004 and 2008. Of course, with every year comes new surprises and that will be no different in 2013 as we celebrate 25 years of this wonderful Macau event.

FIVE NEW ELEMENTS

Five new elements will be added to the contest this year:

  • the inaugural Pyrotechnics Industry Forum
  • the first time contesting teams have represented five continents
  • the first-ever representation of the African fireworks industry
  • laser light effects
  • a mini-movie production

The Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) Director Maria Helena De Senna Fernandes said the addition of these new elements was testimony to just how far the competition had come over the years.

“In the past 24 years, the contest has won ardent support from various prominent fireworks companies around the world,” she said. “The event thus enjoys wide recognition and applause among visitors and citizens. It has become one of Macau’s annual international events not to miss.”

Pyrotechnics Industry Forum

This year the MGTO will host the inaugural Pyrotechnics Industry Forum. Members of the fireworks industry from the mainland and overseas will come together for an exchange and discussion session about pyrotechnic industry applied technology, safety and development, as well as the benefits of pyrotechnics towards tourism. The forum will take place from 28 September to 1 October.

Contesting teams from five continents

The 10 teams that join the contest this year cover five continents: Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. The fireworks companies come from Australia, Canada, mainland China, France, Italy, South Africa, Portugal, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland.

Four companies are also staging their first show in Macau, including GFA PYRO (Groupe Fiatlux-Ampleman) from Canada, SUGYP – Swiss Professional Fireworks from Switzerland and Liuyang Dancing Fireworks Group from mainland China. The Canadian company GFA PYRO has been lighting up the skies for over a century and is a regular participant in domestic and overseas fireworks contests and festivities. SUGYP SA – Swiss Professional Fireworks has taken part in a variety of international contests and music fireworks shows. Liuyang Dancing Fireworks Group is based in Liuyang, Hunan, which is renowned as the “home of fireworks” in China. This company was the organizer of the fireworks at the 60th Anniversary of the National Day at Beijing Tiananmen Square in 2009 and the opening ceremony of World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. They also presented the fireworks display at the 2010 Asian Games.

Four of the participating teams come back this year as past winners of the contest, demonstrating their competitive strength. Among them, Brezac Artifices from France has participated in the contest four times for two wins and Panzera-Industria from Italy has also won twice. The fireworks companies from Spain and Portugal competing in this year’s event have also previously won the top prize. Infinity Pyrotechnic from Australia claimed third place last year. With that in mind we can certainly expect to see fierce competition again this year as the contestants put on a myriad of resplendent fireworks displays.

New contestant from Africa

This year marks the first year an African fireworks company has competed. The aptly named Fireworks For Africa, from South Africa, has won numerous awards in international fireworks competitions. They were also behind the fireworks show at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Laser light effects

This year teams will complement their fireworks with not only music but also laser light effects for the first time, creating an even more fascinating light and sound spectacle. For reasons of nautical safety, the interval between the two fireworks displays held each night of the contest will be reduced this year. The first display will start at 21:00 as usual followed by the second display at 21:40. Each display will span 18 minutes. Spectators can listen to the live broadcast of each display’s accompanying music on TDM – Radio Macau’s Chinese Channel.

Mini-Movie

The MGTO has partnered with Hong Kong television station TVB to produce a mini-movie as an unprecedented promotional feature this year. The mini-movie will be broadcast on numerous TVB-owned TV and online channels, providing widespread promotion for the contest.

DISPLAY CONTEST SCHEDULE
Date Start Time Country Company
Saturday 14 September 21:00 Spain Caballer FX & Service
21:40 South Africa Fireworks for Africa
Thursday 19 September 21:00 Switzerland SUGYP
21:40 Korea Hanwha Corporation
Saturday 21 September 21:00 Portugal Macedos Pirotecnia
21:40 Australia Infinity Pyrotechnic
Saturday 28 September 21:00 Italy Panzera-Industria Pirotecnica
21:40 Canada Groupe Fiatlux-Ampleman
Tuesday 1 October 21:00 France Brezac Artifices
21:40 China Dancing Fireworks Group

THE BEST PLACES TO WATCH THE FIREWORKS

Macau Tower

As in previous years, the Fireworks Display Contest is taking place at the sea area in front of Macau Tower, so naturally Macau Tower is the closest and best viewing point. You can go up to the Macau Tower 58th floor observation deck, or for a real treat try the 60th floor and its 360 degree revolving restaurant to savor a meal while watching the fireworks.

Nam Van lakeside

Known as the liveliest spot to watch the fireworks, Nam Van Lake is the largest artificial lake in Macau and a large number of residents and visitors come here to watch the fireworks each year. It is a good choice for people who love a cheerful and busy atmosphere. There are plenty of good restaurants nearby. Make sure you head down early to get a seat – or you could find yourself standing to watch the fireworks!

Penha Church

There is a small park below the Penha Church that is rarely frequented by visitors in the evening and is a lovely spot for that romantic evening of fireworks with your partner. It’s not as convenient to get to as other spots but is well worth the effort with a quiet garden, the beautiful church as a background and an elevated view of the fireworks. Penha Church is also a lot further away from the fireworks but with a great view of the town it’s an enjoyable alternative.

Open Top Bus Tour

For the first time, the Open Top Bus has a special schedule for the Fireworks Display Contest, so you don’t necessarily need to mingle with the crowd to get the best view. Starting and finishing at Galaxy Hotel, passengers are picked up at 20:20, with the tour passing Sai Van Bridge, Lisboa and Venetian among other places on its journey. Tickets cost HK$200 per person for what promises to be a fantastic experience.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

The Macau International Fireworks Display Contest SMS games, The Trophy Design Contest, Photography Contest and Student Drawing Contest continue to be held this year. The SMS games will see CTM send an SMS to all mobile phone users explaining how to join the game during the Fireworks Display Contest. After every Fireworks Display Contest, phone users can reply by SMS to vote for the display they liked best. By voting, users will go into the draw to win tickets to the 60th Macau Grand Prix as well as a range of other prizes. The five teams with the most votes will receive the Audience Favorite Fireworks Team awards, but voting doesn’t affect the overall result of the contest.

Fireworks Carnival

The MGTO and the Macau General Union of Neighborhood Associations will jointly present the Fireworks Carnival, which returns this year to add fun and color to the fireworks evenings. The Carnival includes food, performances and games. Over 30,000 individuals enjoyed the five-day Fireworks Carnival last year. Located adjacent to Macau Tower, entry is free with the carnival operating from 17:00 to 23:00 on 14, 19, 21 and 28 September and 1 October.

Macao Festival World 2013

Open from 10:00 to 18:00 on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 September and from 10:00 to 15:00 on Monday 30 September at the Venetian Macao Pavilion Centre, visitors can see six kinds of festival products including fireworks, festival lights, molding and decor, festival ornaments, festival clothing and competition supplies. Liuyang Fireworks Museum from the fireworks town Liuyang will present a live show. The museum is Tang Dynasty-style, which consists of four themes – “The Millennium Tour”, “The Traditional Crafts”, “The Modern Technology” and “The Brilliant Performance” – displaying over 210 pictures and more than 180 original objects. Visitors can learn more about 1,400 years of Chinese fireworks history and culture. For more information, visit fest.unexpo.net.

The Macau International Fireworks Display Contest is yet another great example of a quality Macau non-gaming attraction and the growth of the contest over 25 years again shows Macau continuing to establish herself as a world-class cultural, entertainment and tourism hub. While Macau will always be known to the world as a gaming icon, events such as this prove Macau has much more to offer than simply baccarat or slot machines.

The contest has evolved into a truly world class event, attracting to our shores the best fireworks companies in the business as they light up the Macau night sky each and every year. Who would have thought the simple fireworks displays of 25 years ago would explode into what we have today with music, laser light shows and weeks of festivals, events and competitions celebrating this remarkable annual contest?

It makes you wonder what we can expect from the contest over the next 25 years. At the rate Macau is changing, anything and everything is possible. We can’t wait to sit back and enjoy the show.

MACAU INTERNATIONAL FIREWORKS DISPLAY CONTEST WINNERS
Year Country Company
1989 Japan Hosoya Fireworks Co
1990 China Guangxi
1991 Portugal Minhota
1992 Switzerland Bugano
1993 Japan Marutamaya Ogatsu Fireworks Co Ltd
1994 Italy Panzera
1995 Italy Panzera
1996 Portugal Oleirense
1997 Spain Caballer
1998 Australia Syd Howard Fireworks International
1999 Japan Kanto Kako Co Ltd
2000 Portugal Macédo Pirotecnia
2001 China Hunan Firecracker & Fireworks
2002 Portugal Pyrofel – Pirotecnia Lda
2003 Taiwan, China San Tai Fireworks Ind Co Ltd
2004 Japan Tamaya Art Pyro Technics
2005 Japan Tamaya Art Pyro Technics
2006 France Brezac-Artifices
2007 France Artifices JCO SA
2008 France Brezac Artificef
2009 Japan Tamaya Kitahara Fireworks Co Ltd
2010 Japan Tamaya Kitahara Fireworks Co Ltd
2011 China Panda Fireworks Group Co Ltd
2012 China Panda Fireworks Group Co Ltd
2013 Find out this October!

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