A promotional video for the KaBOOM fireworks show. Below, Tim Hogan, new chairman of KaBoom’s executive committee. (Click to enlarge photo)
Coming off two years of financial challenges and crowd-control issues, the 2011 edition of the giant annual fireworks extravaganza known as KaBoomFest will feature a renewed focus on family entertainment and security, organizers say.
While some aspects of the event, including whether to repeat last year’s expansion from one to three days, remain undecided, KaBoom is on track to raise more money from corporate sponsors this year and is paying more attention to the importance of security, said Tim Hogan, president of Riverview Medical Center and chairman of KaBoom’s executive committee.
“We want to make sure that it’s safe and want to make sure that it’s family-friendly,” Hogan said.
In an interview with Hogan and KaBoomfest executive director Charles Moran at Hogan’s Riverview office on Wednesday, the two men talked about bringing a fresh approach to KaBoom following criticism in recent years about public drunkenness, sporadic violence and a debt incurred when the borough stopped paying for police and clean-up costs.
Hogan, who replaced Peter Reinhart as chairman on January 1, and Moran said they have reviewed the recommendations of a task force appointed by Mayor Pasquale Menna last September, which suggested that fees be charged for seating in public parks, and are working to implement them.
But the event will continue, despite some grousing that it has grown too large and is of dubious value as a promotion for the downtown.
“For all the inconvenience, I tell you, you’ve gotta get charged up when your town is full of a lot people,” said Hogan, a borough resident. “That means something. You can go to a million towns now, in the economic state that we’re in, and you see a lot of empty buildings, closed shops, you see downtown shutting down at 5 p.m. You see Sundays absolutely dead. And this town’s different. And it’s really done what it needs to do to keep that buzz up.”
Here are some of the issues touched on in the interview.
CROWD SAFETY: Hogan said he’ll be asking for a greater police presence and “to really take a close look at where they’ll be positioned at times before, during and after the event.”
Police Chief Steve McCarthy “tells us, he has, with plenty of planning, many resources he can draw upon” for police officers from other jurisdictions, says Moran.
ENTRY FEES: In January, the borough council endorsed a plan to fence off all or parts of Marine Park, Riverside Gardens Park and the borough-owned public library property for paid seating. No fee has yet been set, and the KaBoom committee plans to make a recommendation within two months, Hogan said.
In years past, officials had often claimed that stipulations attached to state Green Acres funding for park development prohibited the borough from charging access fees to the park. But Hogan says both former borough attorney Ken Pringle and his successor, Dan O’Hern, are confident that nothing in the law prevents the charging of fees as long as Red Bank residents do not get preference over non-residents.
T&M Associates, the town’s contract engineer, estimates that between 15,000 and 20,000 people use those three sites for fireworks viewing, Moran said.
DEBT TO BOROUGH: According to Moran, KaBoom still owes Red Bank $32,000 from last year to cover the costs of police and post-event cleanup.
“We will repay the town before this year’s event,” Hogan says.
FINANCING: Fundraising for the $250,000 event will put greater emphasis on corporate sponsorships this year. So far, KaBoom has netted a big pledge from Riverview’s parent, Meridian Health, and other sponsorships are near.
“We’ve got a list of potential sponsors that is much more robust than last year,” Hogan said, and the committee plans to be more “aggressive” about landing them.
The annual mailer to 50,000 homes, which last year generated $31,000 in contributions, and on-site soliciting of donations during KaBoomFest, which last year drummed up $7,000, will also be part of the campaign. An option for text-based donating introduced last year generated about $3,000 and will be continued.
The run-up to the show will include a fundraiser at Riverview (replacing one traditionally held at the Monmouth Boat Club, which KaBoomers say they’ve outgrown), plus a wine dinner at Atrium at Navesink Harbor in early June and, possibly, a fun-run in conjunction with the Community YMCA and a fundraiser on the Middletown side of the river.
DATE: The task force mulled the idea of changing the date of the fireworks to July 4, but decided to stay with July 3 because that is a tradition. This year, July 3 falls on a Sunday. The rain date is July 4.
Holding the event on the fourth, when many other towns set off their fireworks, might draw down KaBoom attendance, and organizers did chew that over that option, too, says Hogan. But “we felt strongly that part of the excitement of the event is that you have a large crowd,” he says. “If we can make sure that it’s well managed and well organized, and we have the support of the police and businesses and the citizens, then we’ll have a great event.”
The committee also rejected a suggestion that the event skip this year until it get its finances in order.
Hogan says there’s been no decision yet on whether to scale back the scope of the event, which was expanded to three days last year and featured carnival-style rides and food stands in an empty lot on West Front Street opposite Riverside Gardens Park.
RUMSON: “The only connection between Red Bank and Rumson is that it’s the same fireworks company doing the same show,” which is synched up to music played by radio station 104.3, says Moran. Otherwise, the two shows are separate. So separate, in fact, that KaBoom put out a request for bids from various fireworks companies this year with specs that do not mention Rumson.
Still, “we are going to be in conversation with Rumson leadership to see if there’s any opportunity to create a partnership,” Hogan says.
On the KaBoom executive committee are:
John Paul Nicolaides, Area Manager Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
Amy Delaney, director of the Riverview Foundation – Secretary
Adam Kazalski, principal of The Preferred Client Group, LLC Treasurer
Former Red Bank Mayor Ed McKenna
Charles Moran, Executive Director of KaBoomFest
Gary T. Puma, President and Chief Executive Officer of Springpoint Senior Living, parent company of The Atrium at Navesink Harbor, which has been a major sponsor of KaBoom for several years.