Smiles overwhelmed shivers from young children lining the street for a chance at candy and holiday prizes being thrown from the hundreds of floats Saturday afternoon. Local high school bands and churches cast holiday tunes throughout downtown Sparks all leading up to Mr. and Mrs. Clause sealing the conclusion of another successful parade.
Sparks City Council members and Mayor Geno Martini kept their tradition of tossing candy from a float during the parade, and Mayor Martini said he was thrilled to see so many faces in the crowd.
“It is so nice to come to an event where everyone is having a good time and it is all families,” Martini said Saturday. “We have a lot of little kids, some older people, middle-aged people and everyone who comes all love it. The best part is, it’s free.”
City Councilwoman Julia Ratti said the weather may have been a turn off for some, but she can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
“This is one of my favorite things to do. It is just pure fun,” Ratti said. “You spend the whole day laughing and anything that you can do to get people to spend the whole day laughing is definitely a good thing.”
Sparks Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Domingues said the event could not have been done without the help of the many volunteers, ranging from community service groups, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Hot August Nights and Living Stones Church. She said the weather had her worried early in the week, but was happy to see the parade go as planned.
“It was a goal not to postpone it,” Domingues said. “It’s pretty cold, I get that, but we have had this parade for over 25 years and last year was the first postponement we have ever had. We have had these conditions before it has just been a while.”
Domingues was busy prior to Saturday’s parade as the Parks and Rec. Department unveiled the new location of the city’s memorial brick program, which began in 1999. Previously, bricks denoting deceased loved ones or long-time Sparks residents were displayed on Victorian Plaza, however foot traffic, special events and Nevada weather had taken a toll on them.
The new ‘bricks’ are now displayed as water-cut aluminum panels with the names and messages of the original purchasers and they are displayed inside the roof of the gazebo in downtown Sparks near the Bourbon Square Casino.
“We needed to preserve those thoughts even if we could not preserve the actual bricks,” Martini said, adding that the program is now discontinued. “We gave those back to the people who purchased them and now we have something in the gazebo that will last forever. Even if we move the gazebo later on, those panels can come off easily and be relocated somewhere else. I think we owe that to the people who spent the money to buy those bricks.”
Councilwoman Ratti said the bricks not only commemorate the families and individuals of Sparks, but they add a vital artistic balance to the downtown area.
“I think people love anything that adds a little interest in the downtown environment,” she said. “I think it is nice for people to have a nice surprise when they walk into the gazebo. I consider it a form of public art where you can create those places in downtown where people will linger and I think it will add to that.”
Both Ratti and Councilman Ron Smith serve on the redevelopment board of the city and Smith said improving downtown Sparks and Victorian Avenue is an ongoing effort that will benefit residents for years to come. The commemorative bricks were just one step.
“We have a lot of plans to make this place better and revive it because it gets a lot of wear and tear,” Smith said. “It gets beat up by the many events down here and we have some things we are working on and I think it is going to be exciting for everybody in the future. It is an effort that our Sparks City Council has always been focused on so this is just an added attraction for us.”
Another year of Sparks Hometowne Christmas is in the books and the city will have another year to ponder how to make the event different and better. Ratti said whether they be holiday or personal, traditions are an important piece of community pride.
“I think the holidays are all about traditions,” Ratti said. “You have your family traditions, but I think it is really cool that in Sparks we also have our community traditions. I know so many people who schedule their year around the different events that we have and I think that sense of tradition really helps you feel connected to your community. I think that’s important.”