Novelty top hat, 'New Millennium 2000', card / foil, made by Meteor Fireworks Pty Ltd, China, 1999
This novelty top hat helps to document how a typical Sydney couple marked the beginning of the year 2000. On New Year's Eve 1999 they found a spot on a lawn at Shore School in North Sydney with a good view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There they waited for the fireworks to begin and, equipped with party hats, hooters and a disposable camera, joined in the New Year celebrations.
Many believed that 31 December 1999 was the eve of the new millennium. In public discussion and in the media, it was regarded as the appropriate date for a massive party. In popular culture, this night had been anticipated for years, for instance by Prince's 1982 hit song '1999', with its refrain of 'Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999'. Television networks jostled to cover the New Year's Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbour.
In the lead-up to New Year's Day 2000, there was much discussion about the potential damaging effects of the 'Y2K millennium bug' on information technology systems and on electronic equipment with embedded software that might fail to recognise a date beyond 31 December 1999. Programmers in back rooms around the world quietly checked code and ironed out most of the problems well before the day. On New Year's Eve Sydney's underground train stations were closed between 11.45 pm and 1.15 am, as a safety measure in the event of Y2K problems. Discussion around the issue helped to convince people that this date was indeed the end of the millennium.
Wellington notwithstanding, Sydney was touted overseas as the world's first capital city to see in the new year. This was an opportunity to showcase the city's attractions to a worldwide television audience just months before the Sydney Olympic Games. Preparations were made for 1.2 million people to congregate around the harbour.
Sydney City Council developed a program of free events that included a Millennium for Kids concert in the Domain from 4:30 pm and a floating display of illuminated models of sea creatures. There were several alcohol-restricted zones, including national parks, Darling Harbour, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Sydney Opera House. The Lord Mayor's Mask Party at the Opera House was broadcast around the world. The Opera House also held the House Party, a free event for 5000 ticket holders, on the forecourt and commissioned performances on the building's sails. Pop singer Vanessa Amorosi performed at both the Opera House and Darling Harbour. As per usual on New Year's Eve, there were fireworks displays on the harbour at 9 pm and at midnight, when the Harbour Bridge lit up with Arthur Stace's one-word copperplate sermon, 'Eternity'.
Peter Cox, Curator, 2008
Made in China for Meteor Fireworks Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1999.
Purchased by the donor in December 1999. Used by the donor during celebrations on New Year's Eve 1999 and 1 January 2000. Later donated to the Museum.