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Growth Made KaBoom! Unsustainable

The cost associated with putting on the $300,000 event was just too great for KaBoom without help from Red Bank.

Red Bank Chief Stephen McCarthy isn’t sure just when exactly it changed, when the borough’s annual fireworks show grew too large and in the process became too expensive. On Wednesday, the KaBoom! Fireworks committee announced that , a move that will likely forever change – for better or worse – what for years had been one of the country’s largest fireworks displays.

When he started with the department more than 25 years ago, McCarthy said the fireworks were a more intimate affair. Families came to watch the show along the Navesink River and drove home right after, leaving the borough empty and largely how they had found it. Now, a quarter of a century later, the annual event – and all the problems that go along with stuffing that mass of bodies into a town just over a mile and a half square. Add to that the ballooning cost of everything: fireworks, insurance, and, most prominently, security, and the more than quarter million dollar price tag became too much to float for KaBoom! alone.

KaBoom! Committee Executive Director Charles Moran said he was crestfallen by the decision to pull the fireworks show but said it was the decision of borough council, which rejected the idea of providing financial support to keep the event running. Despite inclement weather stifling crowds throughout the in 2011, Moran said KaBoom!, thanks to its bevy of sponsors, nearly made it to the black. Debts from 2010, however, still linger and Red Bank imprudent to fund a show that some believe has grown too large.

The idea of making the event smaller again is a solution most involved with the fireworks show support. How exactly to grow smaller, however, is the issue. The only sure fire way to reduce the overwhelming crowds is to eliminate the show, at least for one year.

“I think the worry is that if you do anything, 100,000 people will show up,” Moran said. “I think that’s one reason for taking a break. We has asked the police chief (McCarthy), what can we do? He told us he still had to man the place, be prepared for what could be, not what we wanted it to be.”

Overall, McCarthy said he was very satisfied with the effort of his department last year. The borough implemented a coverage plan, , created a zero-tolerance policy, and contracted police from departments in the surrounding towns to help bolster Red Bank’s ranks.

In all, and no serious injuries were reported. In one unusual incident, a . A crowd of people swarmed the car and started pounding on it, even breaking the rear windshield, as police pulled the man from the vehicle. In just a few seconds, more than a dozen officers arrived on foot, by bike, and motorcycle to disperse the agitated crowd.

The situation could easily have escalated if not for the enhanced police presence. Unfortunately, with beefed up security comes a beefed up price tag. Though a specific total was not immediately available, Moran said the cost associated with security, insurance, clean up, and everything not the actual fireworks show was close to $175,000.

“This decision was apparently a budgetary issue. That’s really what it is,” McCarthy said. “It’s a considerable sum; it’s a number that the town couldn’t afford any longer.”

As for the firework show’s future, that remains to be seen. If the show comes back, and in what capacity, depends on what the council wants to see. If the goal is simply to lower costs and grow smaller, a year off may just be the remedy, Moran said.

Marjorie Smith February 16, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Sad for Red Bank but understandable.
Jessica Lotito February 16, 2012 at 03:43 AM
That does seem like an overload of expenses and people!
Laura Madsen February 16, 2012 at 12:18 PM
It sounds like the fireworks show needs more sponsorship so it becomes affordable - either private or corporate. There was a similar situation in Hillsborough, NJ, and one of the town officials brought it back by sponsoring the fireworks event himself. Granted, it was smaller scale, but I think if Redbank really wanted the show to go on, there's a way to do it if funding can be secured. Here's a link to one of the articles in the Hillsborough Patch on the topic of fireworks that almost went extinct in that town. http://hillsborough.patch.com/articles/fireworks-return-to-hillsborough-this-fourth-of-july
Pamela McCoy February 16, 2012 at 01:54 PM
What a shame that something like KABOOM! which brings over 100,000 people to Red Bank, does not have the support of it's own Mayor and council. Executive Director, Charles Moran created great new fundraising efforts like introducing the "Rock the River" concert the night prior to the fireworks, as well as the idea for charging a small fee and providing bracelets for entry, to name a couple, all of which could have been the start of a new campaign for financial support by the community to perpetuate this much anticipated summer event. The unfortunate weather conditions last year completely sabatoged all of those efforts resulting in virtually no attendance, and that was all the impetetus the town needed to finally close down KABOOM! Even those businesses in town who profit the most from the influx of people do not respond to the request of the fireworks committee to donate some of their profits to help defray the cost. The fireworks have come a long way since I was a child sitting on a picnic blanket in Marine Park in awe. The enormity of putting this kind of event together yearly should be supported and shared throughout the town AND borough to ensure its continuity!
viking kaj February 22, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Excellent. Now all the a$$holes who park in my front yard will stay at home and we will get our town and streets back. Couldn't be happier. Cancel this forever!!!

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