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Beachwood Beach Fireworks - A 90-Year-Old Tradition

Pyrotechnics company to begin setting up for display

They say only death and taxes are certain. But in Beachwood, you can throw in the annual Fourth of July fireworks display on the Toms River.

"It's going to be an adventure," Councilman Gerald W. LaCrosse said.

For almost 90 years, residents in the towns along the Toms River have been able to count on an annual fireworks display most years. This year's show is the 77th consecutive display.

Back in 1922, residents fronted the cost of the display. At some point, the borough picked up the tab. When it became too expensive for the municipality, a citizens' group appropriately named B.A.N.G begin soliciting donations and sponsors.

In 1984, former longtime Mayor William T. Hornidge decided the borough should have a dedicated committee - Fireworks on the Toms River - to solicit money for the event.

"They literally went door to door," said Borough Clerk Elizabeth "Betty" Mastropasqua. "They got sponsors and donations and that's the way it's been ever since."

The annual display, which draws thousands to this small town on the Toms River, is set to start at dusk on Wednesday.

And Mastropasqua will be there to watch the show, from the comfort of her son-in-law's 42-foot Chris Craft.

It wasn't always that easy for Mastropasqua. Back in the day, she was the family's designated "stakeholder." She would pack lunches and head down to Beachwood Beach around 11 a.m.

"I'd stake it and and stay there all day," she said.

Members of the borough's fireworks committee will be monitoring the weather, which could turn iffy. There's a chance of showers and thunderstorms during the evening hours.

The task of deciding if the show will go on falls squarely on LaCrosse's shoulders. LaCrosse serves on the fireworks committee with Councilwoman Beverly Clayton and former Mayor Hal Morris.

"We are hoping for a clear night and a full moon," LaCrosse said "If it does not go right, they tie me to one of the shells and set me off."

LaCrosse has a 5 p.m. deadline for deciding whether to proceed. He will monitor NOAA weather reports before making a decision. The rain date is Thursday.

"That's my job," he said. "They kind of put the heat on me. I'm the weather watcher."

Pennsylvania-based Schaefer Pyrotechnics personnel will begin setting up the launch area later today, on the bluffs overlooking the Toms River, Mastropasqua said.

"We've started them off on boats, started them off on the bluffs, started them off on the beach," Mastropasqua said. "We've had them everywhere."

Schaefer has a three-year contract with the borough for the display. And it doesn't come cheap, Mastropasqua said.

"You are talking $1,000 a minute," she said.

The cost of the annual display runs between $26,000 to $29,000, LaCrosse said.

The fireworks committee had considered making the show longer, but decided against it.

"Why make it longer?" LaCrosse said. "Why don't we just pack more into it?"

For many years, other towns along the Toms River - Toms River, Island Heights and Ocean Gate - had their own individual fireworks. But as the cost of insurance for the displays rose, the other towns gradually eliminated their events, leaving only Beachwood.

But the river towns still have a decent view of the Beachwood display.

"We have some very large shells," LaCrosse said. "They go up about 420 feet. All the communities along the Toms River have a view. But the best place to be is Beachwood Beach. It's right over your head."

Other Independence Day events along the Toms River:

Ocean Gate - Mayor Paul Kennedy says the borough's annual Fourth of July parade kicks off at 10 a.m. at Adrian Hall. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. The parade will be followed by beach races at the Wildwood Avenue beach from noon to 1:30 p.m. Medals are awarded in several differents categories and prizes will be given to the top three finishers in each beach event.

Pine Beach - The Pine Beach Fourth of July parade starts at 9 a.m. in front of the Pine Beach firehouse on Prospect Avenue. Registration begins at 8:15 a.m. Former longtime Mayor Russell K. Corby and his wife Judy are this year's grand marshals.

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