Region celebrates glorious Australia Day

A fireworks display that outshone that of New Year's Eve capped off the popular Australia Day celebrations on Saturday.

The fireworks display, which lasted 15 minutes and captivated the crowd that packed into Belmore Basin or lined Cliff Road, was the finale of a day full of fun that started with the aquathon at 8am.

From there it was a long, hot day of fun, with the crowds well behaved right up to the final bang of the fireworks.

The predicted afternoon thunderstorms never arrived and instead people coped as best they could in the warm, sunny conditions.

MORE: How we celebrated Australia Day 2013

Those who had arrived early were sitting pretty, having snaffled up the prime real estate around Belmore Basin - in this case meaning the spots under trees that offered ample shade.

The rest of the crowd did their best to find patches of shade here and there. Or they just didn't worry about it and enjoyed the wide range of food stalls, terrified themselves on fairground rides like the Shock Wave or watched events like the Rotaract Hospital Bed Race (won for the fourth year in a row by a team from Thomas and Coffey).

Overhead during the day were skydivers and an aerobatics display from a biplane.

There were also bands playing through the day and a special stage for the kids.

The wide range of entertainment brought people from out of the region as well - from places as far away as Bathurst and perhaps even further.

Greg and Vicki Booth brought their children, 3-year-old Claire and 1-year-old Hayden, down from Leumeah in Sydney's west to enjoy the best festivities Wollongong had to offer.

Mr Booth said he was quite impressed with the day.

"There's a lot of things for the kids to do," Mr Booth said.

"Certainly more than at Campbelltown. They've got something on for Australia Day but they do the same thing every year. This is something different."

He said the family came down at 11.30am and by about 4pm they were able to find a coveted piece of shade so Claire and Hayden could enjoy an ice-cream cone.

Earlier in the morning Wollongong's focus briefly shifted away from the harbour and across to the Wollongong Town Hall for the Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony, where 57 candidates took the pledge of allegiance.

Following a stunning performance of Australian songs by Wollongong Harmony Chorus, Wollongong's Australia Day ambassador Mat Campbell gave the Australia Day address, where he spoke of his pride not just in Australia but the City of Wollongong.

Mr Campbell said Wollongong was a better place thanks to the many volunteers who selflessly gave their time for many causes, and he encouraged the city's newest Australians to do the same.

Back at the harbour, with kites hovering above Flagstaff Hill and yachts racing beyond the harbour walls, the thong-throwing competition took centre stage at midday.

With many different throwing styles on display, the winner of the nippers competition with a throw of 17.4 metres, eight-year-old Aidan Testa of Figtree, said the secret to a good thong throw was to "throw it high". He took his prize home to enjoy at an Australia Day barbecue.

As the thongs were being thrown, a re-enactment party of soldiers and townsfolk from the 1880s was making its way from the Courthouse to the Smiths Hill Battery on Cliff Road.

Elaine Hart, a member of the Rotary Club of Illawarra Sunrise, was part of the re-enactment.

"We call ourselves 'the wenches'," she laughed.

The Illawarra Sunrise club has been involved with the refurbishment of the gun battery.

"It is a great way to spend Australia Day," she said.

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