Food, fireworks, forgetting where you parked: it’s the biggest event of the year in Red Bank, drawing an estimated 100,000 people for one of the nation’s largest fireworks shows.

First, the weather forecast, as of 6a Friday:

Today: A slight chance of showers, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 80. West wind between 6 and 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Tonight: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 63. West wind around 9 mph.

So conditions would appear to be favorable for tonight’s Kaboom Fireworks on the Navesink. An official decision will be made about whether to go ahead with or postpone the event at 2p; see below for more info.

If it’s a go, the annual challenge of getting into Red Bank, finding a viewing spot and getting out of town is on, too. Here’s some guidance on how to make the best of it.

LargemapThe zone: no cars permitted after 4p.

Because of traffic shutdowns and crowds, it’s best to arrive early and make a day of it in town. Wander the business district and surrounding neighborhoods, grab a nice meal and take in the live entertainment, which begins at 3p.

The streets nearest the Navesink River and north of Front Street will be closed to traffic at 4p. These include Maple Avenue, Boat Club Court, Wharf Avenue, Union Street and Riverview Plaza (the street that runs from Wharf past the Riverview Medical Center emergency room).

At 6p, every street in the downtown district will be off-limits to motor vehicles. The zone is defined by Spring Street, East and West Front streets, Maple Avenue, Reckless Place and Harding Road.

Consider mass transit. Even though today is a government holiday, NJ Transit is running five extra trains that stop in Red Bank. In addition to the those already stopping here will be northbound trains at 7:09p, 8:08p, and 10:47p. Extra southbound trains are at 8:12p and 10:51p.

Try these lots if you have no luck at curbside:

  • The Two River Theater – 25 Bridge Avenue – a $10 donation supports the fireworks. The lot is on Bridge Avenue between the train station and West Front Street.
  • PRC building – 141 West Front Street
  • Day Funeral Home – 88 Riverside Avenue
  • Globe Parking Garage –Globe Court, just a block east of Broad Street.

The parking lot at the Red Bank Public Library, near the corner of West Front Street and Maple Avenue, is designated for handicapped parking.

The best viewing spots?  The most popular are Marine Park and Riverside Gardens Park, each of which offers an auditorium-quality angle on the show from the comfort of a nice lawn. The grounds at the Red Bank Public Library are also good, though this is a steep slope, and not for everyone. For each, you’ll need a blanket to spread out on the grass. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

The downside? Riverside Gardens can get claustrophobic, particularly near the entry gate, which is clogged with food vending trucks.

For those looking for the asphalt jugle experience, the foot of Maple Avenue and the intersection of East Front Street and Wharf Avenue attract several thousand people each year who don’t seem to mind either the blacktop or the fact that a scrim of buildings obscures the lower part of the show. Ditto for upper Broad Street, which takes even more neck-craning to see the fireworks. We recommend folding chairs.

West Front Street from English Plaza to Maple Avenue can get scary-crowded, so unless you’re really into studying strangers’ tattoos, stay away.

As always, of course, if you can cadge an invite to a private party at a riverfront home or dowtown rooftop all the better.

Events will begin in Marine Park at 3 p.m. with a live radio broadcast by Q104.3 and live music. The fireworks show is scheduled to begin at 9:15p and runs approximately 24 minutes.

The entertainment lineup includes local favorites Brian Kirk & the Jirks and headliner Jobonanno & the Godsons of Soul. Over on redbankgreen‘s companion site, Red Bank oRBit, we’ve got a full rundown of what’s on offer where.

The music resumes after the fireworks for those exhibiting the patience that police and event organizers hope prevails.

The roads will reopen after the show, however, spectators should plan to stay put for a while or endure a traffic jam that could last up to two hours, and we are not kidding. Musical performances will continue after the show for those who wish to wait out the traffic.

A rain date has been scheduled for July 4, but this option will only be used in extreme circumstances due to the logistics and manpower involved in producing the event. A decision will be made by 2p today.

If there is inclement weather, officials will wait for a break in the cloud cover and go forward with the show. They  ask that the public not call the police department for status updates because they need to keep their lines open for emergencies. Please call (732) 345-0885 or listen to Q104.3FM and other local radio stations for updates. Check with our web-site or tune into Q104.3 FM for the latest conditions.