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RED BANK THROWBACK: 1983’s “WORST FIREWORKS EVER”

 

Headline in the July 5, 1983 Red Bank Register. (Courtesy of Red Bank Public Library) Click to enlarge.)

By BRIAN DONOHUE

Forty years ago this week in 1984, The Red Bank Register reported pyrotechnicians worked “very carefully” on Red Bank’s Fourth of July fireworks display to ensure “no repeat of last year’s problems.”

That ominous reference made us wonder: what the heck happened in 1983?  Well, in the words of one 11-year-old, it was “the worst fireworks ever.”

The June 6, 1983 Red Bank Register article. (Courtesy of Red Bank Public Library) Click to enlarge.

The June 6, 1983 Register reported a “potentially dangerous explosion” occurred on the barge from which the fireworks were being launched on the Navesink River.

Borough Fire Marshal Stanley Sickels told the paper it seemed to have started when embers from discharged fireworks fell onto a  platform holding the rockets reserved for the grand finale of the show about 15 minutes after it started.

That caused a large explosion, the paper reported. With the grand finale stash spent and barge workers having narrowly avoided injury or worse, the show ended abruptly with spectators left wondering what had happened.

Eileen Ewing, a member of the Monmouth Boat Club said her 11-year-old daughter dubbed the whole thing the “worst fireworks ever.”

The show was put on by Garden State Fireworks, an iconic New Jersey company founded in 1890 that’s still going strong today, with its most notable display at the Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C. in 2021 — proof that everybody has an explosively bad day once in a while.

The 1983 Red Bank fireworks arguably retained the title of the “worst fireworks ever” until about 2010 when the torch was passed to the massive annual Kaboom fireworks display which degenerated into a scene of traffic jams, brawls and drunkenness. Kaboom eventually fizzled out because of rising costs and the aforementioned crowd control problems.

Throwbacks is an occasional look back at life in Red Bank in years past through the lease of the Red Bank Register newspaper archives maintained by the Red Bank Public Library.

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