basie-fireworks2The guys at Garden State Fireworks, who put on the annual KaBoom! fireworks, set off some sparks Wednesday night at Count Basie Theatre. (Click to enlarge. Photo by Anthony Trufolo)


Setting off fireworks in an 85-year-old building sounds nothing short of disastrous, right?

You’d think so, but Chris and Augie Santore are masters of pyrotechnics and, besides, a little showing off for their eager crowd was expected.

The owners of Garden State Fireworks made a visit to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Wednesday night to give a few hundred people a glimpse into all the work that goes into the annual Kaboom! Fireworks on the Navesink show. The literally flashy live action of indoor fireworks was part of a presentation on how the display is coordinated with music.

You could tell by facial reactions that most, if not all, of the people in the crowd were surprised to see just how labor intensive setting up a fireworks show is.

basie-fireworks1Augie Santore watches footage of last year’s fireworks show as he sits comfortably next to a rack of mortars. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

Of course, how would the layman know that Chris Santore starts planning the show’s choreography in December and spends hundreds of hours in front of a computer so the fireworks are in sync, down to the millisecond, with specific parts of a song?

Or that each mortar is tethered to a computer system on a barge that triggers their launch?

Or that the big mortars look like a deformed Mr. Potato Head on steroids?

That’s why the Santores came, to display their knowledge and passion for what they call putting on “a play in the sky.”

“At the end of the day, we get as excited or more excited for them as you do,” Augie Santore said.

Santore detailed how the excitement is built up over months and months until the finale on the Navesink every July 3.

It starts with picking out the music, then pairing specific types of mortars to it from the company’s seemingly-unending database. Chris Santore labors away at the timing — a key element that, in some cases, can go unnoticed, he said.

For example, he went through a segment showing how, during Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Jersey Girl” last year, Santore used a set of fireworks that moved slowly across the sky from west to east when Springsteen sang the lyrics, “…gonna take that ride, across the river to the Jersey side.”

When John Lennon sang “Imagine,” fireworks shaped in peace signs flashed to coincide with Lennon singing the word.

All the hard work, including tugging out barges on the Navesink and spending days in the hot summer sun setting up the expanse of racks filled with mortars, is done by the time July 3 rolls around, Augie Santore said. There’s a CD with the soundtrack, but it’s also encoded with instructions that are communicated to all those mortars.

“The music is actually shooting the show,” he said.

After explaining all that, when the Santores lowered the projection screen to replay last year’s show, there was a feeling, with all the applause, whistles and cheers, that you were at the show again.

Neptune resident Christina Sack said there was no comparing the two, but now she’ll look at the fireworks this July a little differently.

“It gives you a better appreciation of what goes into it,” she said. “The video was good but it doesn’t do (the live show) justice.”

As usual, the fireworks will be held on July 3. New this year will be an evening concert, KaBoom! Rock The River in Marine Park on July 2. Together the two-day event has been dubbed KaBoomFest!