SEA BRIGHT – Police Chief John Sorrentino is wondering what to expect at – and how to plan for – this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display and the accompanying crowd.
“To be honest with you, we don’t know how big it’s going to be,” Sorrentino said.
With Red Bank and Rumson opting out of having a fireworks display this year, Sea Bright may experience a much greater turnout for their fireworks than ever before.
Red Bank’s show, coordinated with Rumson’s, had become the largest one in the state, drawing more than 100,000 people annually.
Without those two displays, Sorrentino and Sea Bright officials are wondering if their community will become the go-to closest location to watch the fireworks.
“We’re trying to figure out how best to police it and secure it with our fire department and our first aid and our office of emergency management,” Sorrentino said. “But to say we’re going to have ‘x’ amount of people here, we just don’t know. We never had it before.”
The borough has been having its annual display since the early 1990s, Sorrentino estimated. And each year the small oceanfront community would experience pretty substantial crowds. “Just under normal fireworks conditions, when the fireworks go off we’re basically at full capacity,” with the beach clubs crammed with members and guests, and the municipal beach “maxed out,” the chief said.
“So, now if you’re talking about adding people to it, where are those people going to go?”
The parking situation is usually at capacity as well, and Sorrentino suspected there could be a large number of pedestrians who coming into town from Rumson by way of the bridge spanning the Shrewsbury River.
“And once they get in then they’re going to want to leave at the same time,” meaning traffic departing after the show will likely be huge, especially given that neighboring Long Branch has its fireworks display the same evening. “When you look at Sea Bright, we’re a barrier island,” he said, “so, there are only so many ways to get in and out and only so many places to put people.”
In previous years the department has had about 12-15 officers on duty for the fireworks, along with the borough’s first responders. Sorrentino said he has asked the borough council to authorize doubling that number of officers, and for additional first responders to be available.
That would require asking for assistance from other towns. While there’s no way to predict what the turnout will be, Sorrentino said, “Let’s put more people in town just in case.”
He plans to reach out to state and county officials to discuss how to prepare for the occasion and help in what to expect and for boots on the ground. “I’m taking every bit of advice I can get.”
The fireworks are produced by Fireworks Concepts, Wilmington, Delaware, with the beach clubs paying for the display, according to Deputy Borough Clerk Suzanne Branagan.
The borough’s costs in the past have been about $12,000, which covered the cost of police overtime,
public works employees, portable public restrooms and public entertainment, she said.
This year, officials anticipate they will need approximately $20,000 to cover the additional costs, Branagan said.
Borough Councilman Marc Leckstein said officials are asking for private donations for the fireworks. Those donations are tax deductible, Leckstein said, and checks should be made out to the Borough of Sea Bright/ Public Relations Trust, the entity the borough council formed this week.
Branagan said she planned to ask local merchants for their support.
“You know, it’s a good thing for the town. It’s good thing for the merchants and businesses. And people just love to see the fireworks.
“Hopefully, with the help of our friends we can pull this off,” she said.