The prospect of seeing fireworks return to Red Bank this summer is grim. And it’s not necessarily because of what officials are saying, but rather what they’re not saying.
At Wednesday's council meeting, after giving the go-ahead to Flavour to host a two-day weekend event at the end of June, just a few days shy of the Fourth of July and Red Bank’s annual July 3rd fireworks show, Mayor Pat Menna said there have been no discussions whatsoever about bringing KaBoom! Fireworks on the Navesink back to the borough.
Planning for the show, which people to the borough’s downtown and riverfront prior to its suspension, typically began soon after the last firework exploded in the sky over the Navesink each July 3rd. But the show and its price tag, which has reached as high as $250,000 recently, has been seen by many as just too much.
After assurances that a return of fireworks would at least be discussed after the cancelation of last year’s show, the issue has not come up either in public or private. Despite there not being any official announcement regarding the future of KaBoom’s one way or another, Menna was ready with a litany of reasons as to why the fireworks show no longer works in Red Bank.
Retailers don’t like it, restaurants don’t see repeat customers from it, and most importantly, he said, the whole KaBoom event was just too much for Red Bank’s residents. The fireworks show was also hampered by the lack of a major sponsor willing to cover its costs, Menna said, and with the rising cost of insurance, and the need to staff the event with police from multiple departments, it’s just not cost-effective for the borough to help fund the event.
“It all comes back to money,” he said. “It’s really impractical for the municipality to carry the event.”
The Red Bank fireworks were an institution in town. Beginning in 1959, the event was first developed, according to KaBoom, by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Eventually, the town sought to have the fireworks funded by local businesses and private donors, thus KaBoom was born.
But now, even the KaBoom website has been taken down, replaced with a landing page for a company that buys and sells domain names.
The problem with KaBoom, many argue, is that it just grew too large. The crowds were too big and the cost too high. Public intoxication was an issue and in 2011 police were able to prevent a near-catastrophe after a man tried to drive his car through a crowd of thousands walking down Front Street. Adding to the consternation was Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore, who said he believed Red Bank should be responsible for covering the cost of additional police patrols following KaBoom, despite the fact that many of Middletown’s 66,000 residents enjoyed Red Bank’s fireworks free of charge.
There were hopes that a one-year hiatus might help revive and reinvent KaBoom as a smaller, more intimate affair. Perhaps that will happen, but it’s not looking good this year.
Menna hasn’t ruled out the possibility of something happening this July 3rd, though what, exactly, remains to be seen. Sippin’ on the Navesink, a Flavour event that will bring Red Bank restaurants and beer and wine vendors to Marine Park this June 29 and 30 is a start, he said, but it’s not a complete answer. He believes Red Bank can do something else.
“But, I’m not sure what that is yet,” he said.