kaboom-riversideContributions on the day of the show put the 2009 KaBoom fireworks barely into the black, but this year’s edition needs more public support, organizers say. (Click to enlarge)

Independence Day fireworks in Jersey City, Chicago and other major cities have already been canceled, and may yet be doused in Montclair, Bloomfield and elsewhere.

But Red Bank’s KaBoom Fireworks on the Navesink display, one of the nation’s largest and most elaborate, will light up the sky as scheduled, weather permitting, organizers insist.

Like relatives of Johnny Jazz, however, they find themselves fighting persistent rumors of the event’s demise.

“The event will be on,” says Peter Reinhart, a Hovnanian Enterprises executive who heads the KaBoom committee of volunteer organizers and fundraisers. “It’s a big event for the community.”

The rumors appear to be partly grounded in the mistaken belief that the show is an event organized and paid for by the borough government.

That hasn’t been true for many years. What is true is that the town’s taxpayers continued to  pick up the for police security and post-event cleanup — last year at a cost of about $60,000 — after the event became an independent non-profit. But the financially strapped borough’s decision not to do so this year, and to instead have KaBoom itself pay for those services, also appear to be fueling buzz that the plug will get pulled, organizers say.

Instead, what the borough’s action means is that organizers have to work harder to come up with more money, says Reinhart.

This year, KaBoom needs to raise about $250,000, up from $200,000 last year, he says. in 2008, the budget was also $250,000, but that was before event organizers took a knife to expenditures, eliminating payments to live performers, for example.

This year, for the first time, the event has been expanded to three days of entertainment offerings, culminating, as always, on July 3, with a fireworks show by Garden State Fireworks that attracts crowds usually estimated at about 150,000.

The show is synced with an identical fireworks display downriver in Rumson that is separately funded.

The higher costs this year have organizers putting even greater emphasis on their pitch from last year: that if everyone who watched the show from the riverbanks contributed just $1, the event would be fully paid for. They’ll have volunteers working the crowds over the course of the event seeking contributions. They’re also asking boaters, who arguably see the show from the best seats in the house, to dig deep.

Last year, day-of donations totaling some $12,000 kept the event from ending up in the red.

The results of this year’s cocktail party kickoff at the Monmouth Boat Club suggested that fundraising is off to a good start, back to 2008 levels, before the economy took the legs out from beneath the event’s corporate donors.

“it’s a challenge for us, but look, it’s just part of the world today,” the relentlessly optimistic Reinhart tells redbankgreen. He also believes that “the public is more keenly aware that the fireworks are not a borough-sponsored event.”

Next up is the $250-a-plate Illumination Wine Dinner at the Atrium at Navesink Harbor on June 10, a swank affair featuring Markus Peter, original co-owner of the famed Fromagerie restaurant in Rumson doing a turn as guest sommelier. The event is limited to 180 guests, and earlier this week, tickets were still available.

Here’s the full text of a letter Reinhart sent to local media this week:

So, what to do about the fireworks this year? Lots of rumors floating around – Rumson is cancelled, Rumson is back on, Red Bank doesn’t have the money, Red Bank’s is off.

Here are the facts.

Fact # 1. Both Red Bank and Rumson are ON for July 3rd.
Fact # 2. Both the Red Bank and Rumson fireworks are financially challenged this year. The entire cost of the Red Bank fireworks is paid for by donations. No money is in the budget for the police and public works overtime.
Fact # 3. If Red Bank doesn’t have its fireworks, Rumson will cancel its fireworks since Rumson cannot possibly handle the additional spectators. It’s in their contract.
Fact #4. If each of the approximately 200,000 spectators gave a few dollars, the fireworks could easily go on in both towns.
Fact #5. Unfortunately, the financial costs of the fireworks are paid for by a relatively few businesses, a few larger donations, and many small donations.

Of course there are economic challenges this year for everyone. But going without this 50 year plus tradition of fireworks on the Navesink should not become a casualty of the economy. Virtually everyone still spends money on entertainment despite the economy. We simply need everyone to contribute a few bucks to continue the fireworks tradition.

The all-volunteer Kaboom Fireworks committee cannot do it alone. It’s up to the citizens of our area, not just those who live in Red Bank, to donate to the Kaboom Fireworks on the Navesink, Inc. and raise the money we need to keep this wonderful tradition of the celebration of the founding of our great country. We need the financial support from the residents of the area towns – Middletown, Fair Haven, Shrewsbury, Little Silver, Rumson, Tinton Falls, Colts Neck, Holmdel and the rest – who enjoy and benefit from a vibrant Red Bank and the July 3rd Kaboom fireworks.

For those of you who are only able to donate a few dollars or those able to make a more significant contribution, we thank you. For those of you who do not make a donation, but come to enjoy the fireworks, we ask you to join your neighbors and do your small part.

Fireworks in Red Bank is more than just a one-day event on July 3rd. Because Red Bank serves as the “downtown” for much of our Monmouth County area, the Kaboom fireworks are part of what defines Red Bank. So many people from outside our area associate fireworks with Red Bank. The loss of the fireworks will mean more than just a night of empty skies. Rather, it would be a blow to the magic of Red Bank that makes the town so special and unique and a destination for so many visitors throughout the year.

So, the fact is we need your money to continue this tradition begun in 1959 on the Navesink River. Much has changed since then. But let’s not give in and allow the fireworks to become yet another victim of the economic times. With just a little help from everyone, we and our families and friends will continue to enjoy this great tradition for many years to come. Please visit kaboomfireworks.org or send your check to “Kaboom Fireworks”, P.O. Box 155, Red Bank, NJ 07701 to make a donation today.

Peter S. Reinhart
Chair, Kaboom Fireworks on the Navesink, Inc.

Reservations for the Illumination Wine Dinner are $250 per person (which includes a 50/50 ticket valued at $50) and can be purchased by calling 732-842-7337, or visiting the website.