KABOOM: TEN BUCKS AT RIVERSIDE GARDENS

riverside-gardens-crowd1Fireworks watchers at Riverside Gardens Park will have to pay; viewing from other public properties will remain free. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Primo pyrotechnics views will cost you at one public location in Red Bank this July 3.

The Kaboom Fireworks Committee, apparently back on its feet through a revamped fundraising model, is backing off a previous plan to charge for views of the annual Independence Day fireworks show at three waterfront properties, and has decided on just one: Riverside Gardens Park.

The other two riverside locations, at the borough library and Marine Park, will remain free.

“They are on very, very sound financial footing,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said of the fireworks.

The committee’s executive director, Charles Moran, said a focused restructure of the show’s fundraising model has put the committee in “a position to keep Kaboom! going year after year.”

But as a trial this year, the committee will charge for a front-row seat to the show. Ten bucks for adults; five for kids/teens between the ages of 10 and 18 anyone over age 10, and $5 for those under 10.

“They’re exhausting every idea to make sure the whole festival runs in the black,” Councilman Ed Zipprich said.

Stephen Hecht, of Branch Avenue, criticized the idea to charge people to see the half-century old borough tradition, especially at a time when money is tight and the borough has chosen not to contribute any money to the three-day festival.

Because of due budget constraints, last year the borough ended its annual $60,000 contribution to the festival, which previously paid for police and cleanup assistance.

“This is the classic instance of the tail wagging the dog,” Hecht said of the council vote to allow Kaboom to charge for access to public property. “I don’t think this is a business decision. It’s an ethics decision and you made the wrong decision.”

Earlier this year, the committee, strapped for cash and under the spotlight after increased levels of violence at the fireworks, proposed charging for views at the Riverside Gardens, Marine Park and the patch of land behind the library.

But, Menna said, “they’ve gotten their act together,” and the charge at just one location is part of the equation.

Since taking a new approach to bringing money in to support the display, the committee has seen a flood of new corporate sponsors writing checks for the show. Two weeks ago, Wells Fargo cut a check for $45,000, the single largest donation in the show’s 52-year history.

Hecht said the money isn’t necessarily the issue when it comes to “gentrifying public property” and “selling it” for a weekend to support a festival that should be self-sustaining.

“If you really really believe we can afford it, then we should have it. If we have to go sell our conscience for it, then we can’t do it,” he said, “even if we have the money.”