kaboometer-061410With less than three weeks to go, Kaboom has quite a financial gap to fill, as indicated by this sign at Riverside Gardens Park on Monday. (Click to enlarge)

KaBoom Fireworks on the Navesink, faced with a steep fundraising challenge this year because of the elimination of a Red Bank government subsidy, gave away $5,000 Monday.

It’s not what you think, though, organizers insist. Rather than coming out of the coffers of the nonprofit organization that hosts the annual fireworks show, the prize money for an essay contest in which schoolchildren competed was put up by a donor, Investors Savings Bank, says KaBoom chairman Peter Reinhart.

Moreover, he said, the “Tough Times Can’t Take Away Our Sparkle & Shine” contest, co-sponsored by the United Way of Monmouth County, took shape before Red Bank pulled the plug on free police protection and street cleanup following the annual event, forcing organizers to find some $60,000 they hadn’t had to raise in the past.

The essay contest attracted some 235 submissions by Monmouth County students on how the recession was affecting their lives. Five students — from Atlantic Highlands, Avon, Freehold, Manasquan and Ocean Township — won $1,000 each, plus primo seating with their families for the July 3 fireworks show.

Reinhart said the idea for the contest grew out of an effort to expand KaBoom events to three days, from the tradition one day, and to better integrate the event into the community. Rides, games and concerts are scheduled for July 1 & 2.

“We were determined not to let the economy get in the way of this Independence Day tradition,” Reinhart said following an awards event for the contest winners held at the Oyster Point Hotel on Monday.

He also said the contest entailed no outlay of funds by KaBoom.

“When we approached Investor Savings with this idea, I think it took them about 30 seconds to say yes,” he said.

Still, KaBoom faces its own recessionary challenges, having to raise nearly $250,000 this year, something it hopes to do in part by shaking yellow buckets among the hordes of visitors to Red Bank on July 3.

How’s the pre-event fundraising going? Reinhart said last week’s $250-per-plate Illumination Dinner appears to have raised slightly more than last year’s edition, which brought in about $30,000.

Overall, though, “we’re a little bit behind, but it’s literally day-to-day,” he told redbankgreen.

And how confident is he that the full cost of the event will be covered?

“I’m not confident,” he said. “But I’m never confident. I think we’ll be close.”