Holy smoke! Armidale priest conjures up fun

MOST priests would be happy invoking fire and brimstone in their services but there's one New England priest who literally creates fire.

Guyra's St Mary of The Angel Catholic Church parish priest Father Anthony Koppman performed what he described as another of his community duties on New Year's Eve at Rologas Fields in Armidale.

Each year for the past six years, he's put on two fireworks displays for Armidale residents through his registered trading name, Holysmoke Fireworks.

For New Year's Eve 2012, he put on a 15-minute display at 9pm with the help of eight assistants, then set off another one at midnight that lasted for about five minutes.

About $5000 worth of pyrotechnics went up, he said.

"It's just another way of expressing my vocation ... to help people bring joy into their lives," Father Anthony said.

"I'm unique in Australia, apparently. According to WorkCover, I'm the only (priest) legally licensed."

He works as a police chaplain as well and said 2012 had been a tough year for families such as Patrick Garrett's and Senior Constable David Rixon's.

Mr Garrett was hit in the head by a rock thrown from a stolen car on Ebor Rd on November 1, while Senior Constable Rixon was shot and killed when he pulled over a car in Tamworth on March 2 during a routine police traffic stop.

But the fireworks were a way for families to put aside bad times, to relax and enjoy New Year's Eve, Father Anthony said.

"Last night was a good example of what Holysmoke is all about providing free entertainment, to give families a safe and enjoyable night," he said.

"I love working with the community. I've had a fascination with fireworks since I was young.

"My role as a priest is not just praying but also getting out and doing evangelisation; I love what I do."

Armidale Dumaresq Council acting mayor Herman Beyersdorf said the fireworks, usually jointly paid for by the council and the Wicklow Hotel, were very popular.

"It pulls quite a big crowd," Cr Beyersdorf said.

Father Anthony will be doing fireworks for Guyra Shire Council on Australia Day.

This year, for the first time, Tingha sportsground will host fireworks on Sunday, January 27, along with a free movie night.

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