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.