They’ve been a victim of their own success. After four years of offering a fireworks-filled New Year’s Eve party for the Blue Mountains, Wentworth Falls Country Club is calling it quits.
“It’s really disappointing,” said club secretary Matt Lark, blaming “the expense” and “the risks”.
Mr Lark, who posted the news on the club’s website with a “heavy heart”, said security guards, portable toilets, traffic control, the risk of a serious incident, insurance — and the cost of the fireworks themselves (about $15,000) — has meant it’s just too expensive to run anymore.
“Volunteers did the majority of the work, collecting money at the gate and security was always done by friends. Last year we had two incidents —someone had a turn and we had some youngsters that were a bit naughty — if that element came back again ... and if those incidents had gone wrong we could have found ourselves in a situation where someone might have sued us.”
The event started with 1500 guests in its first year; last year it was estimated at about 6000 and this year numbers were expected to hit 8000.
“We looked at trying to relocate it but there just wasn’t anywhere, we’ve just got so big that we needed to put a lot more in place.”
While guests were often generous with donations on the night to help cover the costs — last year the event broke even for the first time — conservatively, with increased crowds, Mr Lark said the club would have needed to spend about $30,000 for the 2013 New Year.
Mr Lark said “the whole golf industry is really suffering” and “economically we’re in a fine line”.
“Our average golfer is 68 and that’s climbing. Ten years ago we had 600 golf members, now [it’s] 390. In the last 10 years, Katoomba closed, Lawson closed, Leura was in financial difficulties [and] Blackheath has had issues.”
But Mr Lark said the fireworks could return in the future.
“I’ll never say it’s gone for good, but the board [of directors] would have to be convinced that the risks were all covered and the expense was covered. In the USA there was an event where fireworks shot into the crowd ...if something went wrong all that good work would be undone.”
One group who won’t mourn the exodus of the fireworks are the dogs of Wentworth Falls who regularly escaped their yards in fright on the evening.
In place of the fireworks, the club will hold a Centenary New Year’s Eve party inside the club with a buffet dinner, chocolate fountain, music and kids entertainment.